As Central’s lead over Beach ballooned into double figures during Tuesday’s GHSA Class 3A girls quarterfinal, there was a sense that Beach had a little extra put away for a comeback.
Indeed, once Beach flipped the switch, the game was on.
Trailing 15 midway through the third quarter, Beach went to a fullcourt man press that turned the game inside out. The experienced Bulldogs, looking to make their fourth straight Final Four, put first-time quarterfinalist Central on its heels. A 3-pointer in the final minute of regulation sent the game to overtime, and Tatiannya Morris’ 10-foot fadeaway with 2.7 seconds left gave Beach a 46-45 victory on Central’s home floor.
Third-ranked Beach (27-2) returns home to Savannah for Saturday’s semifinals, where the Bulldogs will take on second-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian at 2 p.m. at Armstrong State. Greater Atlanta Christian beat Tattnall County 72-46 on Tuesday.
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Central, eighth in the Score Atlanta Class 3A rankings, finishes 20-6 after claiming its first region championship in program history.
Four who mattered
Jada Clowers: In a one-on-one post matchup with Judasia Hills, Central’s Clowers dominated most of the way, recording 21 points and 19 rebounds.
Morris: In addition to making the game-winner, Morris finished with 13 points, all in the second half. All but two of her points came in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Hills and Ja’brekia Bass: Although Clowers had a big night, Beach’s two main post players made significant contributions. Hills had 12 points and eight rebounds, while Bass had 10 points and nine boards.
Central led 29-14 midway through the third when Beach went on a 9-2 run to end the quarter. While the game didn’t become a one-score contest until the final minute or so, Beach never relinquished momentum after that third-quarter run.
All Central early on: While Central hit 10-of-22 shots (45.5 percent) from the field in the first half. Beach struggled. The Bulldogs made just 4-of-28 (14.3 percent) in the first 16 minutes, going into the break with a 22-12 deficit.
Too much pressure: Central clearly had issues with Beach’s man pressure in the second half and overtime, turning the ball over 19 times. The Chargers finished with 29 turnovers, to 21 for Beach.
Lid on the basket in OT: Central failed to make a field goal in the extra four minutes. The Chargers’ only points came on free throws, two by Tyleia Williams and two by JeNya Wilder. Beach, meanwhile, had just a basket and a free throw in the extra time prior to Morris’ game-winner.
Savannah homecoming: For the second straight year, Beach and Johnson will participate in the Class 3A semifinals on opposite sides of the bracket. This time around, they won’t have to go far, playing in Savannah at Armstrong Atlantic. Last year, they had to travel to Augusta for the quarterfinals and semifinals, with both Savannah teams losing in the semifinals.
Clock management: After Morris made the go-ahead basket in the final seconds, Central head coach Sheila Toombs tried to get a timeout called, running onto the court to do so. She was unable to get the officials’ attention prior to time running out, and she did not make an issue of the situation as Beach began to celebrate. Unlike professional and college basketball, the clock does not automatically stop after a made basket in the final minute in the high school ranks.
They said it
Morris on the game-winner: “All I know is, I saw the ball (deflected), caught it and took my best shot at it. It was lucky that it went in.”
Morris on returning to Savannah for the semifinals: “It feels great. We know that we have to work hard in practice, work harder. We’ve got to pick up on what we did in this game and go in with a big fight.”
Toombs on the second-half pressure: “They went man on us, and they were working a little harder. There were things that we normally would have taken care of, and we turned the ball over second half when they started playing the man.”
Toombs on this season’s accomplishments and having the bulk of the roster returning in the fall: “The journey’s not over. This was just a bump in the road.”