OAKWOOD -- Chestatee girls basketball coach Web Daniel and his Lady War Eagles are still looking for their first-ever region title. And they are hoping that experience over the past season of playing in high-pressure finals like Lanierland and last year's Region 8-AAA final will help them Friday night when they take on Madison County for the Region 8-AAAA title at the Johnson gym.
Chestatee advanced to the 8-AAAA finals after rallying for a 54-40 win over Eastside Thursday night at Johnson. The win assured Chestatee (22-5) of at least one home game during the upcoming Class AAAA tournament.
In addition, the win also exacted a measure of revenge against the Lady Eagles, who handed the Lady War Eagles their only regular season region loss.
"We weren't worried about revenge or anything. We just wanted to get into the finals and get a home game in the playoffs," Daniel said. "But it would be nice to finally get that first region title."
Chestatee lost a tough game against North Hall in last year's Region 8-AAA championship but demonstrated in the Lanierland finals in December they had learned how to win in a pressure-cooker, knocking off favored Flowery Branch for their first-ever Lanierland title.
"I think playing in those games has helped us and we know what it's like to play in front of big crowds," Daniel said. "We feel good with where we are right now."
Tip-off for the girls final is slated for 7 p.m. at the Johnson gym.
It didn't start well for the top-seeded Lady War Eagles, however. Eastside looked like the higher seeded team in the opening five minutes.
The Lady Eagles used a trapping zone defense to shut out the Chestatee offense while building an 8-0 lead. Eastside forced three Chestatee turnovers, including a pair of steals converted into layups by the Lady Eagles' leading scorer Jazmine Cook.
But the Lady War Eagles would finally find their range as Bridgette Kelly and Erin Clifford drained long 3-pointers to pull them within 10-6. A Maegan Kenimer basket with a minute left in the first quarter got them within 10-8 heading into the second quarter.
That's when Chestatee made its move. After surrendering 10 points in the first five minutes, the Lady War Eagles held Eastside to just two field goals over the final 11:12 of the first half. They dominated the rebounding and used half-a-dozen fast break chances to finish the half with a 17-4 run to build a 22-14 halftime lead.
Kenimer poured in 11 of her game-high 24 points in the quarter while the 5-foot-4 Kelly pulled down seven rebounds in the period to go with four points.
"We don't do anything different on defense and we didn't change up things," Daniel said. "The girls just started executing better. We like to use our defense to create offense and we did that in the second quarter.
"Bridgette has come a long way and really sparked us. She played a very good game."
Chestatee would push its lead to 27-14 early in the third quarter but would have to withstand one final Eastside run. The Lady Eagles, behind Cook, used an 8-1 run over a four minute span to pull within 28-22 and then got to within 37-31 with six minutes left in the game.
That's as close as they would get the rest of the way. Clifford and Kenimer would combine for all 10 points in a 10-2 run for a 47-33 lead to put the game out of reach.
Chestatee would thwart any Eastside comeback hitting 12-of-13 free throws in the fourth quarter.
Clifford finished with 16 points, including four 3-pointers, for Chestatee. Kelly scored eight points to go with 13 rebounds and two assists.
Cook finished with 16 points to pace Eastside. No other Eastside player had more than six.
Eastside will take on Stephens County at 4 p.m. Friday in the third place game.
MADISON COUNTY 51
STEPHENS COUNTY 37
Madison County advanced to the finals of the Region 8-AAAA girls tournament after using a huge second half to pull away from Stephens County Thursday at the Johnson gym.
The Lady Raiders outscored Stephens County 14-6 in the third quarter and then opened up the fourth quarter with an 11-5 run and then cruised to the win.
The game was tight throughout the first half. The game was tied at 12 after the first quarter and Madison County led just 22-20 at halftime.
But the Lady Raiders came out firing in the third quarter behind Nekeia Brown, who poured in 17 points. Elise Coberly finished with 16 points for madison County.