Lady Panthers Inch Closer To Repeat As GHSA 5A Champs As Southwest Dekalb Defeats Eagles Landing 71-
On Tuesday, the third round of the Georgia High School Association Class 5A Girls Basketball tournament continued as the Eagles Landing Lady Golden Eagles hosted the defending 5A Champs, the Southwest Dekalb Lady Panthers. The Golden Eagles would score first when #34 So. Reyonna Hopkins grabbed a loose ball and put it back for 2 points but Southwest Dekalb's #10 Sr. Chantz Cherry would drive to the basket and answer back to tie game at 2. As play continued with the game tied at 4, Eagles Landing's #3 Jr. Kierra Howard would draw a shooting foul and give the Golden Eagles a 5-4 lead as she made 1 of 2 foul shots but the Panthers would the take lead off of #15 So. Lanee Edwards' (16 pts) 2 point basket with an assist from #12 Sr. Jada Walton (27 pts) as the Panthers would go up 6-5 with 4:40 remaining in first.
The Panthers would then score 4 unanswered points to take a 10-5 lead and force the Golden Eagles to use their first timeout with 3:38 to go in the first. Out of timeout Eagles Landing would score 4 unanswered points of their own to cut the lead to 10-9 but the Panthers would score back to back baskets to make it a 14-9 game with :19 remaining in the quarter. The Golden Eagles would then cut the lead down to 3 after Howard would drive to the basket for a 2-point layup and draw the foul, making good on the and one as the Panthers led 14-12 with :05 to go. However Southwest Dekalb would end the quarter with a 18-12 lead after Walton would come down and launch a 27-foot three pointer, making the basket and drawing the foul, in which she made the foul shot.
The Panthers would open up the second quarter with a 8-3 run to take a 26-15 lead with 4:05 remaining in the half. As play continued, Eagles Landing would manage to trade baskets with the Panthers but that would not be enough as the first half would end with the Panthers leading the Golden Eagles 31-19. As the second half got underway, Southwest Dekalb would get things going with a 5-0 run after Edwards drew a shooting foul on a 3-point attempt, making all three foul shots and #45 Jr. Michaela Bennefield scoring on a layup to make it a 36-19 game. Eagles Landing would then score 5 unanswered points of their own to make it a 36-24 game with 5:56 to go in the third.
The Lady Panthers would respond with yet another run, this time 6-0 to make it a 42-24 game and forcing the Golden Eagles to use a timeout with 5:07 to go in the third. With 2:16 to go in the third, the Panthers would be leading the Golden Eagles 49-31 but the Panther’s Walton would be called for a technical foul (talking to crowd) and Eagles Landing would cut the lead to 49-33. On the ensuing possession, Eagles Landing's #21 Jr. Ashley Foster (23 pts) would draw shooting foul and make both foul shots making it a 49-35 game with 1:44 to go in the third. As the Golden Eagles appeared to be gaining momentum, cutting the Panthers lead down to 12, Southwest Dekalb would respond with 6 unanswered points including a 3-point basket by Edwards plus the foul, making the foul shot to make it a 55-37 game as the third quarter came to an end.
Eagles Landing would open up the fourth quarter with Howard nailing a 3-point basket but the Panthers would answer right back and lead 57-40. As play continued, the Panthers would have a scary moment as Walton would go down with an apparent lower calf injury but she would return to the game later. With 2:49 to go in the game, Eagles Landing would cut the Panthers lead down to 12 and then a defensive rebound by the Golden Eagles would lead to a layup by Howard making it a 62-52 game with 1:11 to go in the fourth. With 1:00 to go, the Panthers would get yet another scare when Cherry would go down with an injury to the face and not return to the game but the Panthers would be leading 64-52 and go on to win by a final score of 71-56. Southwest Dekalb advances to the Final Four to face Flowery Branch, who defeated Carrollton 61-46 on Tuesday night.