The West Hall girls are playing with purpose, determination and a relentless attitude.
On Friday night, the Lady Spartans (21-8) knocked off Washington County (22-8) with a 60-48 decision to move on to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1999. That same year, they reached the championship game.
“That’s an accomplishment right there,” said coach Bryan Richerson. “It’s a testament to their hard work, dedication and love for each other. I’m really proud for these girls.”
The Lady Spartans, who are riding a 12-game win streak, will play Maynard Jackson High (28-1) at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 26 at Augusta University in Augusta.
West Hall’s biggest lead in the game ended up being its final lead.
Sophomore Anna McKendree and Macy Passmore each came up big at the free throw line in the final period, combining to go 13 of 16 from the stripe and put the game away.
The Lady Hawks didn’t lay down as they fell behind, but senior Nia Johnson tried to power a comeback.
“You can’t ask for anything else better for her to end her senior year with, trying to do big things for the team,” said Washington County coach Sug Parker. “We just needed more players to step up besides her.”
Johnson was one the Lady Spartans knew they had to contain in order to pull off the victory. Richerson said the plan was to keep her out of the paint, so they played a tight 2-3 zone defense.
“She’s a good player,” McKendree said of Johnson. “We just tried to pack it in on the inside and keep her from driving into the lane. We had some slip-ups, but it paid off in the end.”
Johnson finished with 23 points, including the first point of the game. That free throw was the only lead Washington County had.
“We just didn’t play solid tonight,” Parker said. “Defensively, we gave up too many baskets, too many buckets and we tried to rally from behind too late.”
Nijeria Jordan complemented Johnson’s 23 with 11 points of her own.
McKendree and Passmore were the workhorses all night for the Lady Spartans. Richerson said there is no stage too big for the two.
“They thrive on stuff like this,” Richerson said. “It burns inside of them to prove to people that they’re great guards.
“They tried to take away Anna early in the game,” Richerson continued. “I tell you, Anna and Macy, we’ve seen everything this year trying to deny them, but they have determination. They have a little chip on their shoulder. Finally, they’re getting some recognition state-wide.”
The pair combined for all of the 15 points in the first quarter for West Hall and 13 of the 15 in the second quarter.
At halftime, McKendree led all scorers with 16 points and Passmore was next with 12. The two also combined for 9 of 10 at the free throw line at the midway point, shooting all of West Hall’s foul shots.
In the third, the pair once again totaled all of the Lady Spartans’ points, with McKendree scoring eight and Passmore with three.
The final quarter saw the guards each score eight. Only Izzy Salgado added any other points to the period as she hit a three in transition after missing a free throw on the previous possession.
McKendree finished with a game-high 32 points and six rebounds. Passmore also had six rebounds and scored 23 points.
The pair will have to keep up the pace of play if the Lady Spartans are going to make it past Maynard Jackson next week.
West Hall and Maynard Jackson met on Dec. 12 at the Silver Dome in Oakwood. The Lady Jaguars won that game 71-57.
The Lady Spartans will be playing with a little bit of inspiration this time around, though, since they’ll be getting back guard Avery Prather, who was suspended from the first two rounds of the state tournament after being ejected from the region championship game on Feb. 13.
“I’m so happy for her,” Richerson said. “I’m not going to say I didn’t agree with the call that was made (at the region championship), but I’m happy for her that she gets to come back. That’s really what we’ve played for the last two games to make sure that wasn’t her last game.”