KATHLEEN -- Perry had lost to Mary Persons by 31 and 24-points, respectively, during the regular season.
But the Panthers gained their revenge with a 62-57 win Thursday in the GHSA Region 2-AAAA semifinals.
“We’re just overjoyed,” an emotional Perry head coach Reginald West said. “We came up with a game plan (Wednesday), and these kids bought in. I’m just so proud of them. We haven’t been to the state playoffs, let alone playing for a region championship, in over a decade. I’m just overwhelmed with joy for them because they needed this. We need it for our program.”
The Panthers put together a dream start by taking a 7-0 lead early. They ended the first quarter up 16-2 as Kirondria Smith’s 3-pointer from just past halfcourt went down at the buzzer.
Perry led by as many as 18 points, but Mary Persons finally found some offense at the end of the second and went to the break down 30-16.
“(The start) was mind-boggling,” Davis said. “I never thought that we could hold (KeKe Calloway and Tyesha Davis) down for so long. I never thought that.”
Perry pushed the lead back to 20 at the end of the third, but the Bulldogs showed why they were 22-2 going into the game down the stretch. Calloway had 12 of her 25 points in the quarter, and the Bulldogs used pressure defense and a 3-pointer by Kver Shannon with 1:23 to play to cut the Perry lead to a single point.
But Smith took the ball on the ensuing possession and drove to the bucket for a right handed layin and a foul to push the advantage back to four. She then knocked down seven free throws in the game’s final minute to finish with 39 points in a spectacular performance. The standout sophomore shot 15-of-18 from the free-throw line in the game.
The Panthers will try to pull another upset when they face rival Veterans in the title game. The Warhawks are 3-0 against Perry this season.
“Veterans is another great team that we struggled with three times,” West said. “We played them in the championship of the Bear Brawl. We’ve got to calm down in a hurry and get ready to play (Friday).”
VETERANS (GIRLS) 49, WEST LAURENS 39
Sophomore Carrington Kee keyed a crucial 7-0 run at the end of the third quarter to give second-seeded Veterans some separation from the Raiders (19-8) as they advanced to the championship game.
Veterans (26-1) never trailed.
PERRY (BOYS) 54, MARY PERSONS 38
Fifth-seeded Mary Persons (11-15) hung tight for three quarters, but the top-seeded Panthers pulled away late to advance to the championship game.
K.J. Smith had 20-points to lead Perry (18-7).