MACON -- Lee County coach Fran McPherson cried. And many of her players followed suit.
That was the scene Friday afternoon in Macon where Lee County -- beaten twice during the regular season by Herald No. 1 and state No. 5 Bainbridge -- shocked the Class AAAA basketball world by downing the two-loss Lady Bearcats, 50-47, in the Region 1-AAA tournament semis.
The win also marked a monumental occasion in the history of Lee County athletics.
"We've talked to everyone, from the last 10 or 11 coaches who coached here, and everyone seems to think this is the first time our girls basketball program has ever made it into the region championship," said McPherson, whose team will play Westside, Macon today for the 1-AAAA title at 6 p.m. "If that's the case, then it feels great to be the first. But either way, it just feels great."
Lady Bearcats star, Herald Super 6er and Illinois signee Alexis Burke was her usual dominant self, scoring 25 points. But when Burke fouled out early in the fourth quarter, the Lady Trojans -- ranked No. 5 in The Herald's Top 5 Poll -- took full advantage.
"That was huge," said McPherson, whose team was led by fellow Super 6er Lindsey Crawford's 15 points. But it was Crawford's final two points -- two free throws that put Lee ahead by three points with under 10 seconds to play -- that were most important. DaQuenna Moore added 12 for Lee and sank a layup in the final 20 seconds that gave the Lady Trojans the lead for good in what McPherson described as a "back-and-forth game from the very start."
Bainbridge, which could not be reached for comment following the loss, beat Lee, 67-50, in the first meeting Jan. 29, then followed that up with a 12-point win (76-64) in the regular-season finale last Tuesday.
McPherson said the biggest difference was that her team tried to "out-think" Bainbridge this time around after it became apparent her team might not be able to out-play them.
"Carly Ely scored 11 points and those came from taking strong to the basket and getting them in foul trouble," McPherson said. "And we created turnovers that we didn't before -- we took four charges (in this game) after we probably hadn't taken four charges all year."
Another factor was Burke's supporting cast being held in check. April Thomas only scored nine points after averaging 18 in the first two games the two teams played, while Bria Harris finished with nine -- and also fouled out with about a minute to go.
BAINBRIDGE BOYS 67, UPSON-LEE 58:
Devon Baulkmon scored 26, Devario Thomas added 17 and Justin Harris dropped 14 as the Herald No. 3 Bearcats advanced to tonight's 1-AAAA title game against Hardaway at 7:30 p.m. with a relatively easy win.
Bainbridge won the region last year and will be a favorite to win today's game as well.
"Still, it will be a challenge," BHS coach Rickey McCullough said. "We played well (Friday). Our defense was solid and we held their shooters in check."