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GISA CLASS AA GIRLS FINAL FOUR: Lady Eagles soar into title game

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

MILLEDGEVILLE -- Keep that chip right there.

Don't move it an inch, Terrell Academy. Just keep it right on those big shoulders and carry it right into Saturday's GISA Class AA state title game.

That's right, critics and non-believers, TAE will play for the championship for a third straight year at 3:20 p.m, right back at Georgia College and State University, where the Lady Eagles took apart Christian Heritage 73-64, on Thursday afternoon in the semifinals.

Don't let the score fool you. This one was over at halftime -- probably after the first quarter. That's how hard and fast and unrelenting TAE hit the floor.

They looked and played hungry, ripping off a 26-15 first-quarter lead and were up, 44-28, at halftime.

"We were hungry,'' said TAE coach Keith Jones, who -- like his players -- was tired of hearing about what TAE couldn't do. The Lady Eagles are the two-time defending Class A state champs, but when they moved to Class AA this year Jones and his kids heard everyone tell them they couldn't get it done.

Stay tuned.

They've got one game to go.

Turns out the only word in that Class A, Class AA argument is the word "class," because TAE definitely has it.

"We do have a chip on our shoulder,'' Jones said. "Everyone kept saying we wouldn't win when we moved up to Class AA. This is the kind of team that has to find something to motivate us. We kept hearing that we couldn't win a Class AA state title, and that became our motivation. We came out here in this game with the opportunity for us to make a stand.''

It might have been a stand, but to Christian Heritage (24-2), which had lost just one game all year coming in, it must have felt more like TAE was rolling right over them.

"We were hungry, and you could see that in the first quarter,'' said Jones, who tweaked his offense a bit. "They were content to leave Maura (Milliron) alone, so she just kept taking the shots, and she was on fire in the first quarter.

Milliron scored eight first-quarter points, and Alex Barfield also scored eight to get the Lady Eagles going.

They never slowed down.

By halftime, Barfield, who hit the winning shot a year ago against Fullington to give TAE its second consecutive state title, had 13 points. She finished with 20.

Her cousin, sophomore Lauren Barfield, came off the bench and helped ignite TAE's first half. She scored five in the first and had nine at halftime. She finished with 12.

"We were pumped to play,'' Alex Barfield said. "It just felt like things were going for us in the first quarter. We were on a roll.''

They could just roll their way to another state title.

The Lady Eagles (23-5) face Gatewood in the title game, but the Class AA teams have never intimidated the kids from Dawson. That's why they are here, playing for their third state title in a row.

"It's just another A added to it,'' said Lauren Barfield of the extra A in their new classification "We played these same teams last year when they were AA and we were A.''

But she was tired of hearing the negative talk surrounding the move.

"It gets a little annoying after a while,'' she said. "Everybody kept saying we can't do it, and we can.''

The Lady Eagles soared and spread the wealth as three players finished in double figures, including Millie Foster with 13. Marlee Locke, the Lady Eagles' quick and savvy point guard, finished with seven points and was called on late to play defense against CH star Maggie Peeples, who scored 21 second-half points to finish with 28. Ann Marie Massengale and Rebecca Leonard each scored 15 for the Lady Lions.

Christian Heritage made a late run to make the score respectable, but this one was never in doubt. Maybe that's appropriate for all of Terrell County's doubters.

Just keep doubting. They love it at Terrell Academy.

"Oh yeah, we're going to keep that chip right there,'' Jones said.