FORT VALLEY -- The favor was returned, but not in quite as dramatic and heartbreaking fashion.
And that was fine for Veterans, which let Carrollton lead for all of 25 first-quarter seconds and was able to finish a 54-48 win in a GHSA Class AAAA Tournament girls quarterfinal game Thursday.
The Warhawks happily celebrated, avenging last year's heartbreaking 43-42 semifinal loss to Carrollton at West Georgia. The Trojans won that game on an off-balance 15-foot shot in the final seconds, and the final score was the only time Carrollton led.
This time, the Warhawks had answers when Carrollton tied the game twice in the third quarter after a strong start to the half.
Kya Cochran and Carrington Kee drained 3-pointers on consecutive possessions for a 40-34 lead at the 3:17 mark of the third quarter.
Veterans (26-4) took a six-point lead into the fourth, hit a drought during which the Trojans (25-6) got to within one, but the Warhawks were perfect on six free-throw tries in the final 2:24 to seal it and earn a second straight trip to the semifinals.
FIVE WHO MATTERED
Audrey Nicholson: The 6-foot-2 sophomore scored only two points and had two rebounds, but she turned in a quality defensive performance against Carrollton's bigger post players, helping keep them from taking over down the stretch after they had a quality run to open the second half.
Emily Waters and Erial Daniel: The two strong post players combined for 24 of Carrollton's points and got the Trojans right back in the game with their first seven points of the third quarter to forge a tie.
Morgan Riley: The senior also had to battle the Carrollton post players, which got her into some foul trouble. But she still managed a team-high eight rebounds to go with four points.
Cochran: Veterans' floor leader had 12 points and five assists while controlling the tempo.
Staying cool: Carrollton came out in the third quarter and took control, scoring on its first five possessions, all the points coming in the paint. They tied it at 32 and 34, but the Warhawks didn't get rattled. The Trojans then went five straight possessions without a point.
Understated impact: The offensive numbers for Audrey Nicholson, Riley and Ebony Allen weren't huge -- nine points -- but their combined defense against inside players who had a strength and physicality advantage was key. Waters and Daniel had eight points in the fourth quarter.
Veterans gave up a steal and layup that made it a one-point game and called time with 2:38 left. The Warhawks went inside, Janna Aultman got fouled and hit two free throws, the Trojans missed two at the line, and then Cochran made two for a five-point lead with 1:12 left, just too big a hole for Carrollton to dig out of in a short period of time.
THEY SAID IT
Cochran on revenge: "Very emotional, very appreciative. It's like, before we went in, we were told that second chances don't come often and to take advantage of them."
Cochran on facing a stronger post game and surviving: "We brought Audrey in, a little rookie, a sophomore. She came in and provided very good minutes for us, for our post."
Veterans head coach Nicki Miranda: "We didn't watch the film (of last year's game) until (Wednesday) night. Their guard play was a little stronger than their post play last year, and we were able to get (Waters) in foul trouble last year. They also had some role players come in that were tough that they didn't have last year."
Riley on Nicholson's contribution: "She had a great game. She really picked it up, helped us out in the post. They were very physical, and we had to combat that."
Miranda on Nicholson: "We made an adjustment putting Audrey on (Daniel), even though we were playing the matchup zone. Big props to Audrey Nicholson."
Riley on revenge: "The adrenaline was definitely pumping coming out at the beginning of every quarter. Kya was like, 'Take a deep breath, it's just another game.' "
Veterans plays Wayne County, a 47-38 winner over Bainbridge, at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Fort Valley State.