Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. GAC's Malcolm Brogdon (22) stretches the ball out to keep Laney's Marquise Boyd, left, from blocking his shot on Thursday.
MACON -- As disappointed as Greater Atlanta Christian's girls were at not completing an all-Gwinnett final in the Class AA state basketball tournament, their counterparts from Buford were almost as disappointed.
The No. 2 state-ranked Wolves certainly would've liked a shot at avenging two losses in three games with the fourth-ranked Spartans with the state title on the line, in addition to representing Region 6-AA.
However, they shouldn't be lacking motivation when they try to make it two straight championships by taking on undefeated and top-ranked Vidalia in the title game at 3 p.m. today at the Macon Centreplex.
Plus, GAC's top-ranked boys team can still bring home a Gwinnett and Region 6-AA sweep of the titles if it can beat No. 4 Thomasville in its championship game at 4:45 p.m.
"We're motivated for either team," Buford guard Alysha Rudnik said following the Wolves' (27-4) semifinal win over Laney, but prior to Vidalia's win over GAC, on Thursday. "We want to come out ready."
Of course, Rudnik and fellow seniors Ayana Ward, Lacey Pass, Kayla Burge and Jessica Ours have the extra motivation of trying to end their high school careers on a high note.
"We definitely want to go out a winner," said Rudnik, who had 12 points, five rebounds and four steals in Thursday's semifinal win. "Only one team ends up winning its final game every game. That's how I want to go out."
The Wolves will have their hands full if that is to happen, as Vidalia (31-0) demonstrated in rallying from as many as 19 points down -- and 15 points down as late as the third quarter -- to beat GAC in Thursday's other semifinal.
Led by junior point guard Kourtnee Williams (23 points, six assists vs. GAC) and senior post Shekinah Henry (16 points, 16 rebounds, six blocked shots), the Indians showed plenty of guts and stamina.
While they were able to survive the hectic pace against GAC despite playing their starting five the entire game, Buford is hopeful its depth and suffocating press might wear them down.
Still, Wolves coach Gene Durden his plenty of respect for Vidalia and knows it will take his team's best effort like the one it got in forcing 26 turnovers from Laney, as well as getting 20 points from Andraya Carter and a 5 of 9 night from 3-point range from Pass.
"We've (scouted) them twice now," Durden said of the Indians. "They've got a great post player and a really good point guard. They're going to be tough, but any team that's playing in a state championship game is playing well."
The same can be said for both teams in the boys matchup, especially GAC (31-1), which has disposed of its four previous postseason opponents by an average of 40.5 points after Thursday's 81-56 win over Laney in the semifinals.
However, as excited as the Spartans are at climbing the hurdle that tripped them up a year ago when they lost in the semis to eventual state champion Dublin, coach Eddie Martin knows that can't be enough.
"Our job's not over," Martin said. "If we're satisfied with this, we're just asking to get beat. We can't be satisfied with this."
Judging from the way stalwarts like senior Trent Wiedeman -- who has averaged 21.5 points and 11 rebounds in the postseason, including a 23-point, 18-rebound effort Thursday -- and junior Malcolm Brogdon (19.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg in the tournament), GAC is still hungry.
"We're looking forward to it," Wiedeman said of today's title game. "It's been our goal the whole year long, and we're definitely playing our hardest right now."
The Spartans will need to keep playing hard against a Thomasville (24-4) team that is similar to them in size and athleticism.
The Bulldogs feature one of the top sophomores in the nation in 6-foot-7 Willie Clayton, who averages 17 points and 10 rebounds per game, and had a huge night in Thomasville's semifinal rout of Jefferson.
Thomasville also features the quickness of Georgia Tech football signee Fred Holton, and Martin knows they present one of the biggest challenges GAC has faced this season.
However, he also believes the difficult non-region schedule the Spartans played this season -- including a narrow loss to national power Melrose of Tennessee, plus wins over Class AAAAA Centennial and out-of-state powers Faith Christian (N.C.) and Green County (Ala.) -- will help prepare them for what they face today.
"I think our strength of schedule will help us," Martin said. "This is why we played those games. ... But the key is to play our game."