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Vidalia battles back to take down Spartans

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. GAC's Alex Stevens (30) covers her face with her jersey as she walks off the court as Vidalia celebrates in the background on Thursday. The Spartans lost to the Indians 75-68.

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. GAC's Alex Stevens (30) covers her face with her jersey as she walks off the court as Vidalia celebrates in the background on Thursday. The Spartans lost to the Indians 75-68.

MACON -- A single turning point in a given basketball game is often difficult to pinpoint.

But in Greater Atlanta Christian's Class AA state semifinal against Vidalia it was quite easy -- the 5:19 mark of the fourth quarter.

That is when senior captain Chaney Means fouled out, and with the Spartans already on the ropes during a furious fourth-quarter comeback, the top-ranked Indians went for the knockout punch.

Kourtnee Williams scored 11 of her game-high 23 points in the final frame as Vidalia rallied from as much as a 15-point deficit in the second half to escape with a 73-68 victory Thursday at the Macon Centreplex.

It was an extremely disappointing end to the season for the fourth-ranked Spartans (26-5), who had hoped for a fourth meeting with No. 2 Buford in Saturday's championship game.

Instead, it will be Vidalia, which remained unbeaten on the season despite going the entirety of Thursday's game without making a single substitution.

"Give Vidalia credit. They're now 31-0 for a reason," GAC girls coach Cal Boyd said. "I think both teams played their hearts out (Thursday) night. I don't think there were any losers in this game."

GAC was on track to be the winner, leading by as many as 19 points in the first half before taking a 39-28 lead into intermission. After Peyton Whitted's backdoor layup from a feed from Means, the Spartans led 45-30 with 6:27 left in the third quarter.

However, Means picked up her third foul less than a minute later, and Vidalia slowly began to chip away, outscoring GAC 18-6 over the remainder of the quarter, keyed by six points from Shanice Mincey and five points and four assists from Williams.

But it was the fourth foul on Means with 1:26 left in the third quarter that really hurt.

Already having trouble handling Vidalia's press, having Means -- one of its best ball handlers -- headed to the bench didn't help matters for GAC.

The Spartans committed the bulk of their 13 second-half turnovers the remainder of the game.

"We began to make some ill-advised passes, and we got sloppy at times," Boyd said. "And we had a couple of quick shots when we did manage to beat their press, and then we didn't get back, and (Vidalia is) quick.

"Chaney's been in foul trouble three times this season and we've lost all three. ... She's certainly not everything to us, but it's certainly important to have her in the game. We made the decision to bring her back at about the six-minute mark because we felt like we needed her in the game."

The senior guard didn't last more than a minute before picking up her fifth foul on a rebound with 5:19 left.

GAC still led 56-53 at the point, and even increased it as a three-point play and a jumper by Sierra Lawrence and a baseline jumper from Whitted put the Spartans up 63-54 with 3:50 left.

But Vidalia's press was relentless, and even though the Indians had not substituted the entire game, it was GAC that looked like it was beginning to tire.

"My starters are ready to play 32 minutes," Vidalia coach Chunk Reid said. "If they weren't, it would be my fault for not preparing them."

When Williams hit a pair of free throws with 1:58 remaining, Vidalia had its first lead since the opening minute of the game at 64-63.

Vidalia's lead reached 68-63, but GAC showed it wouldn't quit either as Whitted took a pass from Lawrence and knocked down a 3-pointer with 1:15 left to pull the Spartans to within 68-66.

But Olivia Coleman collected the rebound of her own missed free throw and fed Mincey for a layup with 55 seconds left that pushed the Vidalia lead to 70-66.

And GAC could not score again until just before the buzzer.

In addition to Mincey's heroics, the Indians also got 16 points, 16 rebounds and six blocked shots from Shekinah Henry, while Mincey (15 points), Coleman (11 points) and Shaniqua Williams (10 points) also reached double figures.

GAC had its heroes, too. Whitted finished with a team-high 21 points, while Lawrence added 15 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals.

Kristina Nelson added 12 points and nine boards and while Means had but two points on the night, she also contributed seven rebounds, five assists and five steals before fouling out.