CARROLLTON - After its surprising run to the Final Four last season, Duluth's attempt at a return trip came up a game short as the Wildcats fell 47-32 to Marietta in the Class AAAAA state quarterfinals at West Georgia.
Saturday's game marked the end of a remarkable run made by five Duluth seniors, concluding the year with an 18-8 record.
"It's a rough locker room right now," Duluth head coach Jeremy Huckaby said. "This senior class did something greater than winning a state championship. They put Duluth basketball back on the map and that, to me, is the greatest thing they could've done."
Points were hard to come by for both teams on Saturday but Marietta found enough offense from its star forward, senior Telia McCall.
McCall, a Virginia signee, scored over half her team's points with 24 in addition to grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds. That, in conjunction with struggles from the floor with its own offense (12 of 39 shooting), proved to be too much to overcome for Duluth.
"We knew she was really good," Huckaby said of McCall. "We just didn't do enough to stop her."
Duluth's night got off to a hot start by making its first three shots to jump to a quick 7-0 lead with field goals from Aliya Thomas, Daphne Adebayo and Alex Phillips.
That momentum quickly went away as Marietta (24-7) took control with a 15-2 run that lasted all the way into the second quarter, eventually taking a 25-18 lead at the half.
That edge was extended to 28-18 in the opening minutes of the third but the Duluth defense stepped up and held the Blue Devils scoreless the remainder of the period.
That opened the door for the offense as Duluth scratched out an 8-0 run to cut the score to 28-26 after the third, setting the stage for a fourth-quarter surge.
But that surge never came as the Wildcats were outscored 19-6 in the final stanza. That difference resulted from Duluth hitting just 1 of 14 field goals in the fourth while Marietta was a solid 13 of 16 from the free-throw line.
"Obviously, the run we had last year was remarkable," Huckaby said. "It's tough to get back there and tonight just wasn't our night. But these kids put some pride back in Duluth basketball and that means more to me than any championship."
Mykala Walker, who will join McCall in the ACC at Wake Forest, finished with just six points on the night while Thomas led Duluth with nine points. Marietta will play in the semifinals Thursday at 7 p.m. against the Beach-Westlake winner at the Gwinnett Arena.