The loss deprived the Lady Bears (29-1) of both a state championship – which would have been their first since 1999 – and an undefeated season after winning their first 29 games of the 2013-14 campaign.
“We did have an outstanding season and not just with the wins,” Holy Innocents’ coach Tony Watkins said. “We had 11 girls playing for each other. We had outstanding team chemistry. We were very disappointed and I feel like we weren’t just happy to be there. We really played to win and it just didn’t work out for us.”
Holy Innocents’ led most of the way through the first three quarters – leading 16-12 at the end of the first quarter, 27-22 at halftime and 38-33 at the end of the third period.
However, back-to-back 3-pointers by Marquita Daniels ignited what would turn out to be a 15-2 run for SACA, which also was able to take advantage of some Lady Bear turnovers at the end.
“We had a five-point lead going into the fourth quarter and we made a couple of turnovers and Marquita Daniels hit a couple of bombs from NBA range,” Watkins said. “We also gave up a couple of offensive rebounds. We outrebounded them 50-35 for the game and that’s one thing I was worried about, because they’re so athletic. But, they got a couple of [of offensive rebounds] in the fourth quarter, which led to baskets and they made their run late – hats off to them.”
Khayla Pointer scored 13 points, while Erika Cassell added 12 points and 18 rebounds and Sydney Long had 11 points to lead HIES in the finals.
The Lady Bears advanced to the championship game with a 46-20 victory over Darlington in a semifinal contest at Kennesaw State last Monday after having beaten Savannah Country Day 83-29 in the first round Feb. 24 and Mount Paran Christian 72-51 Feb. 26.
With only senior Lexii Cassell – a Murray State signee – departing from this year’s Class A private school girls’ runner-up, Watkins said the future looks bright for his team.
“We return 10 of 11 on that roster and that’s exciting,” Watkins said. “We’re looking forward to the future.”
Meanwhile, St. Pius X (30-3) won its second consecutive Class AAA girls championship with a 48-45 victory over Buford in the title game in Macon last Saturday.
The Golden Bears fell behind 15-3 at the beginning of the game, but came back and took the lead for good towards the end of the first half.
Asia Durr scored 23 points, while Jasmine Carter added 12 points and seven rebounds and Miah Allen had nine points on three 3-pointers and grabbed seven rebounds to lead St. Pius.