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Westover survives first-round scare

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- It's all downhill from here.

Well, almost.

The girls at Westover have to feel that way after knocking off Jackson, Atlanta, 52-48, in the opening round of the GHSA girls AAA state tournament Saturday.

"That was a top team,'' Westover's DyTiesha Dunson said. "That was a team like you would play in the state championship.''

Jackson had been ranked in the state poll and had ripped through the Region 4-AAA regular season, going 15-3. Everyone expected the Lady Jaguars to win the tournament and make a run at the Final Four.

But two upsets last week, put Jackson on the road as a No. 4 seed, and the Lady Jaguars landed in the Boston Garden for a first-round game that felt like a Final Four matchup.

"That was a tough draw,'' said Westover coach Lewis Smith, whose team will host Northside, Columbus on Wednesday. "We ended playing a No. 1 in the first round. They're a great team.''

Jackson's Marqueisha Smith towered over Westover, and the 6-foot-1 post not only had size and style, but she also had an amazing wingspan, which allowed her to block four shots. She even jumped out and blocked a 3-point shot, and slammed another into the seats.

But Smith scored only 11 points despite grabbing 10 rebounds, because Westover's Latisha Wiliams and Danielle Glover both had tremendous efforts inside.

Williams does everything for Westover, and finished the game with seven rebounds, two blocks, four points, three steals and an assist. Glover fouled out with five rebounds, a blocked shot and two points.

Someone must have told Cessily Colwell just how big this game was, because Colwell came flying onto the court, busted back-to-back 3s to get Westover going and finished the first quarter with nine of Westover's 13 points. She ended the game with a season-high 19, and couldn't stop smiling.

"I knew my team needed me,'' Colwell said. "We weren't scoring (at the beginning of the game), and I felt like my shot was on. I had to get my team going.''

Westover (24-3) played in spurts early and managed to stay with Jackson, which led by as much as five in the first half. Dunson, arguably the best player in Region 1-AAA, had miserable luck shooting as everything just bounced in and out. Still, Westover led 23-22 at halftime.

"I wasn't worried, because those shots were just rimming out. I knew eventually they would start falling,'' Smith said.

They did in the second half, and Dunson took over, scoring 11 of her 13 points. She blocked two shots, grabbed two rebounds and had three assists, including a highlight tape, drive, spin and pass to Shantaria Williams, who dropped in a shot at the third quarter buzzer to give Westover a 41-31 lead.

And the Lady Pats never looked back.