Entering Friday’s Region 7-AAAA tournament semifinal, the Chestatee girls basketball team hadn’t played in 10 days.
The Lady War Eagles made up for lost time with a thriller against Blessed Trinity.
After taking an early double-digit lead with a barrage of 3-pointers, No. 2 seed Chestatee gutted out a down-to-the-wire, 46-43 win on its home court. The victory earned the Lady War Eagles (20-6) a spot in today’s region championship and guarantees them a first-round playoff game at home.
Not bad for a team that recently battled the flu bug and hadn’t seen live game action in nearly two weeks.
“We’ve had 10 days off, so that was stressful,” Chestatee coach Web Daniel said. “This team has lately been declining, as far as not playing well. But I thought we came out and played well tonight.”
That was certainly the case in the first quarter, when the Lady War Eagles made 5 of 7 3-pointers and forced six turnovers to build a 19-6 lead. All five starters hit a basket in the opening period, with four connecting from long range.
But Chestatee slowly unraveled after its early surge. The Lady War Eagles made only three field goals in the second quarter as the Lady Titans (9-18) cut the deficit to 27-19 at halftime.
“We were up by a lot, and we kind of slacked off after that,” said junior guard Lindsey Caudell, who finished with a game-high 17 points and eight rebounds. “We just started going downhill from there.”
Blessed Trinity sophomore guard Katie Hynekamp scored eight of her team-best 14 points in the fourth quarter, including a pair of free throws that created a two-point game with 12.3 seconds remaining.
She then forced a turnover right after her trip to the charity stripe, only to miss a potential game-tying shot. Senior guard Eramiss Hernandez corralled the rebound and made the front end of a 1-and-1 for Chestatee, and Hynekamp’s desperation heave fell short at the buzzer.
“This team was tough, just a matchup problem,” Daniel said of the Lady Titans, with whom Chestatee split two tight regular-season games. “They’re a scrappy team.”
Senior forward Brooklyn Popham racked up 10 points and seven rebounds for the Chestatee, while classmate Dawndria Bell scored 11.
The Lady War Eagles won’t have to wait long to play again — they face No. 1 seed West Hall, which went unbeaten in region play, at 5 p.m. today at Chestatee.
WEST HALL GIRLS 45, MARIST 32: The Lady Spartans are only one game away from repeating as region champions.
Senior guard Macy Passmore scored 18 points as No. 1 seed West Hall (21-5) beat fourth-seeded Marist (10-16) by 13 points for the third time this season. The Lady Spartans didn’t allow an opposing player to score in double digits and forced 15 turnovers in the semifinal win.
West Hall will face No. 2 seed Chestatee in the region tournament finals at 5 p.m. today.
BLESSED TRINITY BOYS 48, WEST HALL 44: The fourth-seeded Spartans’ upset bid fizzled in the final minute as they nearly knocked off a team that had beaten them by double digits twice this season.
Senior forward Xzavier Reid (game-high 17 points) hit a 3-pointer from way outside to make it 46-44 with about 10 seconds to play before No. 1 seed blessed Trinity (19-6) closed out the semifinal game at the free-throw line. Sophomore guard Noah Edmondson chipped in 12 points.
The Spartans (8-17), who beat Chestatee in Tuesday’s play-in game, will take on No. 3 seed White County in the third-place game at 3:30 p.m. today.
MARIST BOYS 49, WHITE COUNTY 29: John Ward scored 15 points as the No. 3 seed Warriors fell in the semifinals Friday at Chestatee.
White County (16-10), which No. 2 seed Marist outscored 29-13 in the second half, will face West Hall in the third-place game at 3:30 p.m. today.