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Tuesday May 31st, 2016 2:12PM

Class AAAA playoffs: Chestatee girls' hopes undone by Grady

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
GAINESVILLE -- Every time Chestatee thought it had the answer, Grady found a response.

The Lady War Eagles battled back from a 14-point first half deficit and pushed the Lady Grey Knights for every step, but Chestatee could not come up with the final response on Friday as Grady held on for a 55-51 playoff victory in Gainesville.

Chestatee created plenty of opportunities to continue its historic season, tying the game in the third quarter and pulling within 53-51 with just over a minute to play, but the Lady War Eagles could not convert two possession inside the final minute, as Grady held on to pull the upset.

"It was a great effort, but we made fouls when we shouldn't have, and then we turned the ball over twice there late, and you can't do that against good teams," said Chestatee coach Web Daniel, who saw his team win its first region title and set a school record for wins in 2013-14. "It's a learning experience. I'm so proud of these girls; they fought it out tonight."

The Lady War Eagles (24-5) looked as though they might be overwhelmed early, as the Grey Knights put together a 12-2 run at the end of the first quarter and then opened the second quarter on a 8-0 push to take a 28-14 advantage.

But Chestatee was not about to give in, and the Lady War Eagles mixed the back-door pass and a steady diet of 3-point shots to rejuvenate its offense and pull within 31-27 at the half.

The Lady War Eagles continued their momentum into the third quarter, where a 10-2 run sparked by 3-pointers from Deanna Bradberry and Bridgette Kelly knotted the contest at 37-37. The duo continued their torrid pace throughout the game, as Kelly put up a game-high 18 points and Berry 16 points.

Grady's response came in the form of Jasmine Rich.

The Grey Knights' post pushed the visitors back in front with a three-point play -- part of her team-high 13 points, all of which came in the second half.

Yet Chestatee continued to press, forcing 22 turnovers from Grady that helped keep the Lady War Eagles in step. Yet perhaps the biggest difference came at the free throw line, as Grady converted 9 of 13 free throws in the fourth quarter. Chestatee attempted just four free throws over the final eight minutes.

"They were just bigger and more physical, and the were able to get in there and bang a little more," said Daniel, who saw his team lose the rebounding battle 29-23 -- though the Lady War Eagles ripped down 10 boards in the fourth quarter as they tried to overtake Grady. "Plus we had some girls in foul trouble and that hurt us."

Junior starter Tyler Bennett, who played strong inside throughout, fouled out with 2:23 to play.

The Lady War Eagles still had an opportunities to come up with the tying or winning basket but turned the ball over with 44 seconds to play and then again with 15 seconds remaining, the last giveaway allowing Grady's Erica Gibbons to seal the contest from the free throw line, sinking one of two shots.

The outcome brought to an end an impressive season for Chestatee, which will return three starters next season.

"I won't say it will be a rebuilding year because last time I said that we won the region," Daniel said.
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