Kourtnee Williams could only think of one word to describe her play in the first half of the GHSA Class AA semifinals game against Greater Atlanta Christian.
“Garbage,” she said.
The Vidalia junior would have needed a decidedly different word to come up with the way she played in the second half.
Williams’ defensive aggression and command on offense helped the top-ranked Indians (31-0) bounce back from a 15-point second half deficit to beat Greater Atlanta Christian 75-68 on Thursday at the Macon Coliseum. Vidalia will play Buford at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Coliseum in the AA championship game.
Williams scored 13 points in the fourth quarter — including 10 in a crucial 14-0 run — and made two of her five fourth-quarter steals in the game’s final moments to seal the victory. It was the first time in seven years that a public school beat a private school in the AA Final Four. Public schools were 0-8 since Terrell County beat Holy Innocents’ in the 2004 Final Four.
“She’s a player,” Vidalia head coach Chunk Reid said. “She can make us go, and she played great in the second half.”
Williams scored 20 of her game-high 25 points in the second half after struggling to do much positive in the first half.
Her play keyed two massive runs for the Indians, who trailed by as many as 18 in the first half and by 15 early in the third quarter.
That final run began with less than four minutes to play in the game after GACS took a 9-point lead. The Lady Spartans spurted back in front after Vidalia worked diligently to cut their lead to three points at the end of the third quarter. Reid thought the renewed comfortable lead could have been the backbreaker.
“We had a lot of momentum, but they killed it,” he said. “I didn’t know if we could bounce back.”
But just after falling behind by 9, Williams darted into the lane and drew a foul. Her first two free throws kicked off what would become a 14-0 run and push the Indians ahead by five points with 1:29 left to play. The Indians’ pressure defense was lights out during the run, forcing turnovers on six consecutive possessions during one stretch.
“I think we just never gave up,” said senior Shekinah Henry, who finished with 16 points. “We never thought for one second that the game was over.”
GACS got as close as two points with 1:13 to play, but Shanice Mincey put the Indians back up four on a third-chance basket.
Henry blocked a shot on GACS’ next time down the floor, and Williams would come up with two steals late to ice the game.
Vidalia held the Lady Spartans’ top two scorers — Chaney Means and 6-foot-3 freshman Kristina Nelson — without a point in the second half.
“I thought we kept our defensive intensity up the entire second half,” Henry said.
The first run began midway through the third quarter with the Indians behind 45-30. A pair of baskets by Shanice Mincey got the run started, and the Indians took off after that for a 14-2 run that pulled Vidalia to within three points with 1:26 to play in the third quarter. It was the closest the Indians got since they tailed 6-3. They closed the quarter on an 18-6 run, which was buoyed by Means picking up her fourth foul late in the third quarter. Means, who has signed with Western Kentucky, was the steadying force behind the Lady Spartans’ early lead.
GACS head coach Cal Boyd sat Means until 5:30 was left to play, but she picked up her fifth foul 11 seconds later. She finished the game with 2 points and was scoreless in the second half.
Boyd said Means has been in foul trouble three times this season, and the Lady Spartans lost all three games.
“They were a different team with her on the court,” Williams said. “She is a great player, and she really did a good job leading her team. I think they lost a lot with her fouling out.”