KATHLEEN -- After the higher seed won each of seven quarterfinal matchups during the GHSA Region 2-AAA girls and boys tournaments, the first upset of the tournament struck late Wednesday night.
And it was a big one.
Eighth-seeded Peach County (9-15) shocked top seed and regular season champion Central, 69-64, in overtime to advance to the state playoffs. It was the first time the Chargers (17-9) have missed the state playoffs since the 2005-06 season.
The Trojans will play Baldwin at 8:30 p.m. on Friday in the semifinals.
“We just kept telling them if they kept working hard, then good things would happen,” Peach County head coach Ricky Wray said. “Good things happened (on Friday).”
Peach County got to overtime after standout freshman Ahmed Hill stole an in-bounds pass with 15 seconds left and drew a foul as he darted to the hoop. He sank both free throws to tie the game.
“He could have gave up on the loose ball, but he battled and made a play,” Wray said. “That’s not a freshman play.”
Hill scored 10 points in the final 3:30 of the game.
Peach County led by five early in overtime and forced the Chargers to chase them the rest of the way. Central couldn’t make up the ground.
Hill scored six of the Trojans’ 11 points in overtime. He finished with 29 points.
Central would miss a 3-pointer at the horn that would have won the game in regulation.
Peach County led by as many as nine points in the third quarter and held an eight-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
But Central scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter and stayed hot on the way to a 13-2 start to the quarter to take its first lead since the first quarter.
Howard 60, West Laurens 46
Levon Grant didn’t have to worry about his players’ nerves heading into a game Wednesday night with a spot in the state playoffs on the line.
The Howard head coach was the one facing anxiety prior to the tipoff of his team’s GHSA Region 2-AAA quarterfinals matchup against West Laurens at Veterans.
“I was more nervous because they weren’t nervous at all,” Grant said. “They’re joking and saying they can see gray hairs on my head. I’m thinking, ‘If we lose, we’re done.’ I wanted to make sure they understood how big this was.”
The Huskies (16-9) showed their head coach they understood with a quick start and a relatively stress-free 60-46 over the Raiders (13-13) to earn the Huskies’ first state playoff appearance in school history.
Devontae Tharpe led the Huskies with 19 points. Darrell Williams scored 15 for the Raiders.
“We’ve been working hard towards this, and we had a goal of making the playoffs,” Tharpe said. “It feels pretty good to make it.”
Howard led by eight points after the first quarter and 13 at the half.
Mary Persons 69, Veterans 59
Parris Moore scored 21 of his 26 points in the second half -- including 10 straight in the fourth quarter -- to lead the second-seeded Bulldogs (17-8) to a win over the feisty Warhawks.
Seventh-seeded Veterans (12-15) led by four points late in the third quarter and stayed tight for much of the fourth quarter by trading baskets back and forth with the Bulldogs.
Brannen Greene’s 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter broke open a tie game and gave the Bulldogs the lead for good. But it was Moore’s aggressiveness that finished off the Warhawks.
The physical forward got to the basket and finished close shot after close shot. He scored 10 straight for the Bulldogs as they stretched their lead to eight points. He had 12 points overall in the fourth quarter.
“That’s Parris being Parris,” Mary Persons head coach Prelvis Paster said. “That’s what he brings to the table. He’s a hard worker. ... He has a grinder-type game.”
The teams split regular season games with both teams winning on the road, so despite the seed differential both head coaches assumed Wednesday night’s game would be tight.
“We said it was going to be a 12-rounder,” Paster said.
Greene added 18 points for the Bulldogs. Jabari Leggette led three Veterans players scoring in double figures with 18 points.
Baldwin 63, Westside 48
The Braves (14-8) opened the game on a 15-1 run and never looked back to advance to Friday’s semifinals.
Baldwin’s Kendall Saulsbury led all scorers with 20 points.
Westside (13-12) eventually closed the gap to eight points at the start of the third quarter with a 7-0 run coming out of halftime. Baldwin, however, stretched the lead back out to as many as 16 in the third quarter, and Westside never got closer than 12 in the fourth quarter.