Despite a hard-fought effort in the region title game, the Westminster Christian girls basketball team was unable to win another region championship.
With three players out with injury, including leading scorer Lanie Bauer, the Lady Lions battled in a tough region championship game last Friday night. Avery Clark scored 17 points, with 12 in the second half, but WCA lost 41-35 to Lanier Christian Academy.
The Lady Lions defeated the Lightning in the GAPPS 2-AAA region and state championship games last year, but last Friday marked the third time the Lightning defeated the Lady Lions this season.
“That may have been our best game this season for executing the game plan,” Lady Lions coach Chan Deep said. “Our effort was encouraging [Friday], they battled so hard. [Lanier] beat us twice already. They had a great game plan, and they executed it, but we scared them. They beat us by 20 the last time we played them, and a bounce here or there and it’s a different ball game.”
The Lightning came with pressure early and forced a turnover on a Lions inbound pass to start the game. Lanier continued to push and quickly scored 5 points on the Lions.
Clark put Westminster on the scoreboard with a 3-point shot, and Amelia Beaver added her own 3-point play to take a 6-5 lead.
Reece Montgomery scored a 3-pointer, and Shyla Sheffield added two free throws to give the Lightning a 10-6 lead before Kara Grace Myers chipped 3 points away with a deep shot. Sheffield scored once more before time expired and Lanier led 12-6 at the end of the first quarter.
The Lions started the second quarter with two free throws from Sammi Haymore. Lexie Robertson scored a 3-pointer for Lanier and Ashley Avery scored again before Deep called a timeout.
Lauren Costello made a 3-pointer after the timeout, and on the next Lions possession Mackenzie Evans scored from the post after an inbound pass from Haymore, tying it 16-16.
Robertson scored another 3-pointer to put the Lightning up 19-16 before the Lions slowed their pace to a crawl.
Clark dribbled away most of the last three minutes of the half standing at midcourt. She made two free throws with 2:28 on the clock and the Lanier responded with a quick 3-point shot.
Clark stood still for the next two minutes and Lanier’s coach Mike Robertson was content to let his players protect the paint.
In the final seconds, Clark and Evans tried to run a play together, but the shot missed at the buzzer. Lanier led 22-18 at half.
“The game plan from the beginning was to shorten the game because we were shorthanded,” Deep said. “My biggest player, [Myers], had two fouls in the first quarter, so my thought was if they would come out and guard us, that gives us more space, we could get around them or maybe draw some fouls up top. When [Robertson] just sat back, I said we're going to ride this 4-point game to halftime, get Kara Grace back in the mix, and go from there.”
Clark drove for 2 points and Montgomery scored another 3-pointer to keep the Lightning ahead 25-20. Lanier scored 5 more points before Clark got the Lions back into the game with a 3-pointer with three minutes left in the third.
Clark scored another 3-point shot and brought the Lions within 4 points. Hollie Buessee scored 2 points in the last minutes and the Lightning took a 32-26 lead into the fourth quarter.
Clark started the fourth quarter with another 3-pointer, and Beaver brought the Lions within 2 when she made one free throw. Robertson made a 3-pointer for the Lightning and they led 35-30 with just over five minutes to play.
Evans and Clark each made a free throw on five attempts over the next two minutes and the Lions sat 3 points behind the Lightning. After a Westminster timeout at 1:38, the Lady Lions turned it over and Avery made a jump shot for Lanier after draining time off the game clock.
Beaver made a corner 3-pointer for the Lions with 30 seconds left, making it 37-35, but the Lightning made four free throws in the final minute to win the region championship 41-35.
Steve Crouse, the Lions athletic director and boys basketball coach, reminded the crowd before the game that Lanier was the higher seed and technically the home team at Westminster Friday night. He also announced the all-region honors after the game. The Lady Lions’ Lanie Bauer and Avery Clark both received all-region awards, and Lanier had three recipients.
The Westminster boys’ basketball team showed up to their gym at 4 p.m. on Friday to prepare for their region championship game against Trinity Prep. The Lions knew already the Trinity Prep girls team had forfeited their consolation game to Killian Hill, but they later found out the boys team forfeited its game, too.
Crouse said the forfeits were for “non-Covid” reasons. As a result, WCA’s boys entered the state playoffs a No.1 seed and hosted their first match against Johnson Ferry Christian on Tuesday after publishing.
The Lions defeated Fideles Christian on Thursday to make it to the region championship. Peyton Deep led the team with 17 points and four 3-pointers. Seth Lowry scored 12 points in his first game back from injury. Kyle McCullough scored 8 and Mark Smith added 7 points.
The No. 2 Lady Lions faced No. 3 Cornerstone Prep in the first round of state playoffs on Monday. The Lady Lions won 55-25 points and advanced to face No. 1 Central Fellowship Christian Academy on Friday, Feb. 19. Skylar Kirkpatrick scored a team-high 14 points during the first-round win.
Tuesday after publication, the boys team hosted No. 4 Johnson Ferry Christian Academy.
Both WCA teams hosted the first round, but the next round of the tournament will be at Central Fellowship Christian Academy.
Check next week’s edition of The Oconee Enterprise for updates from those games.