GAC girls lay claim to region title

NORCROSS - The Greater Atlanta Christian girls celebrated at midcourt and held the Region 6-AA trophy high as their fans cheered.

But the real challenge lies ahead.

There has been just one goal for the Spartans this season.

"We want the state championship," senior D'Nay Daniels said after GAC beat three-time defending state champ Wesleyan in the semifinals Friday night.

The state tournament is up next, beginning next weekend. The top-ranked Spartans won the Region 6-AA Tournament with a 56-26 rout of Buford on Saturday night at Wesleyan.

Buford had upset last year's Class AAA state champion Avondale in the semifinals. But the Wolves were no match for GAC, which ran its record to 27-1.

"They play great defense," Buford coach Gene Durden said. "We missed some easy shots early and then it just went downhill."

The Spartans led 24-13 at halftime and scored 18 consecutive points during a second-half run.

For GAC, it was again a story of aggressive defense and balanced scoring.

Daniels, named co-player of the year in Region 6-AA with Wesleyan sophomore Anne Marie Armstrong, scored 11, while Julio Stephens had 10. Bria Smith scored nine on three 3-pointers and freshman Briana Jordan had eight.

Victoria Peevy led Buford (17-12) with nine points. No one else had more than four.

GAC was ahead 30-19 midway through the third quarter before starting its 18-point run. Soon after, both teams cleared their benches.

GAC will host Coosa next weekend as Region 6 is matched against Region 7 in the first round of the state tournament. Buford will also be at home, facing Dade County.

"I'm just glad to get in the other side of the bracket from them," Durden said of GAC. "They are definitely the team to beat. It's really hard to match up with them and they have so much depth. They're just a really good team."

Daniels was joined on the all-region squad by teammate Cree Nix. Kelly Tucker of Buford was also honored.

Wesleyan 45, Avondale 41

Wesleyan (21-7) jumped to a 16-4 lead in the second quarter and then held off a comeback by Avondale (22-6) to secure the No. 3 seed from Region 6-AA for the state tournament.

Wesleyan will travel to Armuchee, while Avondale is at Model next weekend.

Avondale twice took a one-point lead in the fourth quarter, but Wesleyan regained the lead for good on a 3-pointer by Kelly Hall with just over a minute remaining.

Wesleyan won despite shooting just 10-for-23 from the foul line. Armstrong had 12 points and Hall scored 13. Both made the all-region team, along with teammate Sarah Delk. Delk and Erin Hall both scored 10 points.

Anjelica Mealing, another all-region choice, led Avondale with 12 points.

Winners of four of the past five Class AA state championships, Wesleyan led 25-13 at halftime. Avondale, however, outscored the Wolves 12-5 in the third quarter to get back into the game.