The Crisp Academy Lady Wildcats hold up their fourth straight GISA Class A state championship trophy, which they won Saturday by demolishing Thomas Jefferson. (Larry G. Williams/Special to The Herald)
MACON — Somewhere around midcourt Saturday afternoon, the tears began to flow.
And they flowed.
Crisp Academy’s Lady Wildcats celebrated their fourth consecutive GISA Class A state championship, clobbering Thomas Jefferson 49-15 at Mercer University’s Hawkins Arena.
On this day, there was no doubt who the GISA Class A girls basketball giant was.
In complete domination, Crisp Academy’s senior class made their claim as one of the better GISA girls programs in the organization’s history, exercising their dominance in a game that wasn’t supposed to be this easy.
After the final buzzer sounded, center Madi Mitchell bear-hugged fellow senior Madison Odum near center court and neither could hold back the tears.
“Each time we win one, it’s more and more special,” Odum said. “Being a senior, this one means more because it’s my last and this is a close team. I can’t believe it’s over. I’m going to remember this forever.”
Then the team celebrated at midcourt, hoisting the championship trophy with yellow roses in hand.
Crisp coach Gina Mitchell also found it hard to hold back the tears of joy that were so contagious from her players.
“A few weeks ago, we said we could look at this as either a burden or a blessing,” said Mitchell, whose Lady Wildcats held the No. 1 ranking and went wire-to-wire as the top team.
“It’s a blessing to be on this team. Then No. 2, it’s a blessing to be on this floor (in the championship game) much less to be playing in this game. It’s a blessing, and Crisp Academy is blessed to have these girls.”
The celebration actually could have started a lot sooner during a game that was over in the first half when the Lady Wildcats (30-2) jumped out to an 18-0 lead on an afternoon when they didn’t execute their game-plan to perfection.
They missed shots underneath the basket that they usually make with ease, and they didn’t shoot particularly well from the free throw line.
But none of that mattered because the Lady Wildcats’ created opportunities with their defense, forcing 13 Thomas Jefferson turnovers.
“Defense is our strong point,” said Kara White, who finished with 12 points. “It’s obvious because we usually hold teams to around 30 or so points. We wouldn’t have beaten half of the teams we did this season if we didn’t play the defense we did.”
Thomas Jefferson didn’t score its first points until the 2:57 mark of the second quarter on a pair of free throws. The Lady Jaguars were held to 15 percent shooting from the floor and sank just four field goals, including one in the first two quarters as Crisp built a 24-5 halftime advantage.
The Lady Wildcats led by as many as 36 before Thomas Jefferson broke the 10-point mark with 2:59 left. White said the score was misleading and praised the Lady Jaguars’ effort.
“They kept fighting, and they never quit,” she said. “The way they played, it felt like we were only up by a few points the whole game.”
Madi Mitchell led the way with 22 points, putting on a show in her future home arena. The senior will play next season at Mercer.
Maddie Krause added eight.
By the middle of the final period, Gina Mitchell had sat in her chair at courtside and enjoyed the final few minutes. Odum said it felt like the game would never be over.
“It’s like it wasn’t going to end,” she said. “But now I can’t believe it’s over.”
It marked the final game for six seniors — Odum, White, Krause, Kayla Childers, Madi Mitchell and Morgan Wells. The group left a tough act for future teams to follow.
“We made history,” White said. “It’s definitely the sweetest one yet. I’ve been through all of them. This is one of the best days of my life, being able to spend it with my family. I don’t just look at them as a team, it’s a family.”
Which is why this one was extra sweet.