0

State Championship Saturday: Part 2 -- TAE goes back-to-back

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

MILLEDGEVILLE -- Thirteen.

It's supposed to be an unlucky number. But for Terrell Academy's Lady Eagles, the play "13" brought home another GISA Class A state title Saturday.

Lady Eagles sophomore Alex Barfield drained a 3-pointer with the game tied at 42-42 and less than five seconds to play, lifting Terrell Academy to a 45-42 win against Fullington Academy -- the second straight year the Lady Eagles have crushed the Lady Trojans' title dreams at Georgia College and State University.

"This is more sweet than last time," Terrell head coach Keith Jones said. "The expectations and all that pressure from winning the first one, you felt so much relief. Then everybody said now that you've done it, you've got to go do it again.

"Now that we've won two in a row, they can just let it go."

Tied after Fullington's Ashlyn Reed hit two free throws with 45 seconds left, Terrell ran the clock and called timeout with 16 seconds left. In the huddle, Jones called out "13" -- a play involving a double screen designed for Barfield.

"We only use it in close-game situations," Barfield said of the play call. "I knew it was going to me."

Jones never even said a word to his sophomore on the sideline, knowing the state title would be in her hands in the final seconds.

"I didn't tell her anything," Jones said. "More times than not, she's going to make that shot and she made it in probably the biggest moment of the season."

Barfield came off the screens set by her teammates and junior Millie Foster hit her with a direct pass near the top of the circle. Barfield pulled up and sank the shot as calmly as any other she's made all year.

"The timing went perfectly and it just really worked out," Foster said.

Then the tears came.

One set of streams belonged to the Lady Eagles, jumping and screaming all over the court. Another set of tears poured from Fullington players, many who crouched on the court faced with another heartbreak ending.

"Even though I felt like we outplayed them (in the second half), I don't think there was anything we could do about that last shot," Fullington head coach Mike Cason said. "It was a great shot on their part. I was hoping it would go to overtime. I felt like at that point the momentum had swung to our side."

Barfield, an All-State selection as a freshman, scored 15 in the win, helping Terrell Academy (20-7) lead for all but about one minute in the fourth quarter. Barfield has now won state titles as a freshman and sophomore, but said it's been anything but easy since joining Jones' varsity teams.

"It's a long road," said Barfield, who also played as an eighth grader, losing in the state title game three years ago.

Foster led Terrell Academy with 16 points, while Marlee Locke scored 10 and helped defend Reed, the Lady Trojans' sharpshooting junior who finished with 16. Locke, who has battled ankle injuries all season, was hurt again Saturday, but barely missed any time on the court.

The Lady Eagles' lose one senior, Lauren Duckworth, and return all five starters next season, but they won't win another GISA Class A title. That's because they'll move to Class AA next season.

Still, realignment hasn't stopped the Lady Eagles from thinking three-peat, though.

"We've already started talking about it," Jones said. "Double A get ready, here we come."

Added Foster, "We'll be going back to work very shortly."

Fullington will join Terrell Academy in the same Class AA region, renewing the rivalry all over again next year.

"We wanted some revenge

from last year," said Cason,

whose team finished 21-8. "Obviously we didn't get it. At least I can say, 'Well, we were better than everybody in the state but Terrell.'"