High School Basketball
Lady Hawks reach GISA Final Four
MACON – All season long, the magic number for The Heritage School’s girls basketball team has been 30, as in points allowed.
Keep an opponent under that mark and the Lady Hawks are more than likely going to come out ahead during 2013-14 season.
Against Southland in Friday’s GISA Class AAA Elite 8 game, the theory again proved itself positive, as team defense and a double whammy of Groover sisters willed The Heritage School to a 52-29 victory and into next week’s Final Four for the first time in program history.
The Lady Hawks advance to play Region 2-AAA champion Stratford Academy, which defeated Pinewood Christian next Friday at Mercer University. The Lady Eagles hold a No. 1 state-ranking to go with a 27-3 record.
Heritage’s feat, meanwhile, continues a string of state semifinal appearances for its athletic programs following runs in football, baseball and girls soccer in 2012. The Hawks have a chance to join the girls today in the Class AAA boys Elite 8, needing a victory today against Region 4-AAA champion Augusta Prep.
The boys state quarterfinal game will tipoff at 2:30 p.m., at Tattnall Square in Macon.
Second year head girls basketball coach Derrick Clay, who was part of a run to the 2012 Class AAA football championship game, is hoping his current team’s run through the playoffs still hasn’t reached its final destination.
The Lady Hawks (25-3) take a 17-game win streak into next week’s Class AAA semifinals after wrapping up a 1-AAA championship with an unbeaten record.
“I’m so excited for these girls. We have met each goal we have set so far, and now to see this great group of girls make school history. Being in the Final Four is an awesome feat, but I hope we aren’t done.”
Preaching a tenacious defense all season that pressed opponents into submission, the Lady Hawks gave up 11 points in the first quarter before getting right back to their typical selves while slowly pushing in front of the Lady Wildcats, the No. 2 finisher out of Region 3-AAA.
The win over Southland was Heritage’s 17th victory this season while holding an opponent to under 30 points. The Lady Hawks were coming off Wednesday’s 48-18 first-round victory over Mount de Sales. Southland, which upset Tiftarea to reach the finals of the 2-AAA tournament, advanced to the Elite 8 for the first time in seven years with a 35-30 victory over Westminster-Augusta in the opening round.
Heritage broke free from an 11-11 tie after the opening period to establish a slim four-point lead at halftime. But it was a 20-9 run in the third that put Southland (13-14) on the run for good.
Siblings Kara and Karlee Groover led the Lady Hawks with spirited efforts that netted 15 and 12 points respectively in addition to six rebounds apiece. Together the duo was also responsible for 14 of Heritage’s 22 steals including a game-high 11 from Kara.
Karlee connected on 5 of 8 shots from the field and teammate Lillie Smith chimed in with 11 points in the victory among eight Heritage scorers.
Shooting just 32-percent from the field, defense and ball control played key roles against Southland, finishing with 13 turnovers to the Lady Wildcats’ 22.
“I told them if we could hold Southland to 30 with our type of ball we could blow it open,” said Clay.
Taking a 19-15 lead into halftime, the Lady Hawks watched Southland close to within just three in the opening two minutes of the third quarter before going on a 17-4 run over the next six to close the period. Heritage also picked up its win by attempting just 13 free throws in the game, all of which by the Groover sisters, and hitting six shots from the line.
Clay played at least 11 players while showcasing his depth. Abbie Farr and Amanda Windom each finished with four points while Ruthie Powell, Kate Everett and Kaytlin Squires had two apiece. Maggie Crosby added six rebounds while Ansley Dieckmann had two to go with three steals.
Lady Hawks 52, Lady Wildcats 29
Southland 11 4 9 5 — 29
Heritage School 11 8 20 13 — 52
Heritage (52) — Karlee Groover 5 2-4 12, Kara Groover 5 4-9 15, Zofia Powell 0 0-0 0, Ruthie Powell 1 0-0 2, Lillie Smith 5 0-0 11, Kate Jones 0 0-0 0, Maggie Crosby 0 0-0 0, Ansley Dieckmann 0 0-0 0, Abbie Farr 2 0-0 4, Kate Everett 1 0-0 2, Kaytlin Squires 1 0-0 2, Rebekah Henson 0 0-0 0, Amanda Windom 2 0-0 4. Totals 22 6-13 52.