MILLEDGEVILLE – Jerusha Hudson walked out of the locker room with an expression of relief turning into a big grin.
“Woooo,” the veteran Putnam County girls head coach said.
Putnam County trailed undefeated Model by double digits in the first half, and hung around and hung around and ultimately ended Model’s season with a 51-42 win in a GHSA Girls Tournament Class AA quarterfinal.
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The War Eagles (25-4) advance to the semifinals for the second time in Hudson’s 13 years at Putnam County.
Two free throws with four-tenths of a second left in the third quarter by standout Rykia Pennamon pulled the War Eagles within 31-30 after they trailed 29-17 at halftime.
She put them ahead with two free throws 43 seconds into the fourth, and Putnam County went ahead for good on Lilquita Ellison’s 3-pointer midway through the quarter.
Model, after a long drought, got to within 39-38 only for Ebony Hargrove to hit two freebies with 2:04 left. Ellison added another bucket for a five-point lead, and the War Eagles finished off the upset.
Putnam County, which held Model to two points in the third quarter, outscored the Blue Devils 21-11 in the fourth quarter.
FOUR WHO MATTERED
Ellison: Talk about clutch. She scored more than double her 5.6-point average with 13 points, with seven points – along with two steals - coming in the fourth quarter.
Pennamon: The sophomore didn’t play like one, scoring a game-high 19 points and going 11-of-14 from the line.
Hargrove: The War Eagles’ No. 2 scorer for the season was held to three points through three quarters and still scored a little more than half of her average, but five points came in the fourth quarter.
Victoria Saxton: The 6-foot senior, who played taller than that, led Model with 18 points, but was held scoreless in the third quarter, thanks in part to foul trouble as well as the War Eagles playing better.
Nice defense, nice numbers: Putnam County scored about a point less than its average, but held Model to 42 points. The Blue Devils haven’t been held to less than 50 points was in a 47-45 win over Thomasville in last year’s second round. It was their lowest point total since Kendrick won 71-34 in the first round of the 2013-14 tournament.
Easy does it: Despite Model frantically trying to come back, Putnam County was pretty sharp at the line down the stretch. The War Eagles were 12-for-15 at the line in the fourth quarter, Pennamon and Hargrove teaming for the bulk of that accuracy.
THEY SAID IT
Hudson on Putnam County’s early hole: “What we weren’t doing was getting back on defense. I told them, ‘don’t worry about the ball, just get back. Then you can worry about the ball.’”
Hudson on when the War Eagles were mentally back in the game: “When we caught up with them, when the game tied, all of a sudden, 'we can beat this team.' As long as we were behind, they had doubt. But once the game tied, that did it. That was it. Somebody even came to the bench and said, 'You can beat this team.'"
Hudson on the War Eagles’ overall performance: “This wasn’t our best game. It’s our best win, but it is by far not (our best game).”
Putnam County plays Holy Innocents at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday at Georgia College.