KATHLEEN -- There was little suspense as the homestanding Veterans Warhawks punched their ticket to the GHSA state playoffs with a 75-29 victory over Upson-Lee in the opening round of the Region 2-AAAA tournament Monday night.
“I’m real happy,” Veterans head coach Nicole Miranda said. “Three straight years making the playoffs, that’s kind of always been our goal.”
Veterans had just a single point midway through the first quarter, but it caught fire quickly. The Warhawks put together a 25-3 run to end the quarter and essentially put the contest out of reach early.
Upson-Lee had no answers for a Warhawks defense that kept streaming fresh bodies off of the bench. Veterans forced 32 turnovers in the victory.
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“We never slowed down defensively,” Miranda said. “We got a lot of steals. They really jumped in the passing lanes.”
Junior Anna Nicholson made some history late in the fourth quarter as she knocked down her fifth 3-point field goal of the game to break the single-game program record. Her 19-points led topped a deep Veterans unit that had 12 players score.
“I told Ambria (Cornelius) that if she had an opportunity, to get it to (Nicholson),” Miranda said. “That was neat for her to shoot that well and the girls were real excited for her. They were probably more excited than she was.”
Veterans was forced into the opening round game despite finishing tied with Mary Persons at 11-1 in region play. The Warhawks were 14-0 in their non-region games, including eight wins against programs in higher classifications, but they had fewer Class AAAA non-region victories than the Bulldogs.
“I didn’t like it,” Miranda said. “Everywhere I’ve ever coached, it was cut off at AAAA or higher and you get rewarded for your strength of schedule. I don’t necessarily want West Laurens in the semifinals, but you plan the hand you’re dealt. I told the girls to play with a chip on their shoulder and just get in an extra game.”
PERRY 44, BALDWIN 38
The Panthers erased a two-point deficit at the end of the third quarter to pull away from Baldwin and earn a trip to playoffs.
Tatyona Owens and Kirondria Smith led Perry (15-10) with 11 points each. Courtney Butts had 14 for the Braves (8-18).
WEST LAURENS 53, HOWARD 31
West Laurens turned in a stingy defensive performance as they held Howard to just 11 points in the first half to cruise to a state tournament berth.
DiAsia Herring had 18 points in the victory, while post player Dinah Jackson added 14. Zoria Chatman had 12 for the Huskies.
Third-seeded West Laurens is 19-7, and Howard finished 10-16.