Fayette girls advance to the Elite Eight

Wed, 02/27/2008 - 10:10pm
By: Kevin Wandra

The Fayette County Lady Tigers are now two steps away from playing for the first state title in basketball in school history.

Fayette trounced Bainbridge 63-37 Wednesday in the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs in Fayetteville to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1986.

The Lady Tigers will play the winner of Northside, Warner Robins-Glynn Academy at 7 p.m. Saturday at Fort Valley State University.

Playing in front of Alabama coaches and a coach from Georgia Tech who were at the game to scout her, standout junior point guard Tessah Holt caught fire early. She tore apart Bainbridge for 10 of her game-high 21 points in the first quarter and enabled Fayette to head into the second quarter with a double-digit lead (16-6).

Holt created numerous scoring opportunities for herself off dribble penetration.

“She was outstanding,” Fayette coach John Strickland said of Holt. “She is like a quarterback, taking every snap and being under control. She has adapted to that. I’ve seen her grow from her freshman year to her junior year.

“She’s playing big-time basketball right now for us.”

A combination of intense defense and fast-paced offense allowed Fayette to continue to run overmatched Bainbridge off the court in the second quarter; Fayette outscored the Lady Bearcats 15-2 to hold a significant edge at halftime, 31-8.

It was more of the same in the second half for the Lady Tigers.

Their offense was carried by Holt, who focused more on distributing the ball than shooting it in the half, and forward Anma Onyeuku, who scored 17 points. And Fayette’s defense went on to hold Bainbridge to its lowest scoring game of the season.

Bainbridge’s previous lowest scoring game of the season was a 38-36 victory over Worth County in late December. Fayette hasn’t allowed a team to score at least 40 points since Jan. 25, when it lost to Westlake 68-61.

Another factor in Fayette’s victory was free throw shooting. Fayette went 18-of-24 from the free throw line.

“Our free throw shooting was huge,” Strickland said. “Any time in a tournament game you get the chance to shoot free throws, you have to hit those ‘free’ shots. The more you hit those, it gives you a great opportunity to win.”

Bainbridge had a miserable night at the free throw line, sinking only two of 15 shots.

Fayette’s offensive attack also received a lift from shooting guard Kristene Walker, who proved once again that she’s a valuable player off the bench. She finished with nine points, including seven consecutive points that pushed Fayette’s lead to 40-24 with 1:08 left in the third quarter.

Alexis Burke scored 13 points and Zaikia Damson added 12 to lead Bainbridge.

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