HOMER — In the end, it was too much Elbert County quickness and too many turnovers from Rabun County in the Region 8-2A championship game Thursday night.
The lightning-quick Lady Blue Devils defense forced 21 turnovers, turning them into 17 points, and was the catalyst in their 62-51 victory over the Lady Wildcats in a battle of the top two teams in Class 2A at the Banks County gym.
It was the first region title for the Elbert County girls (21-2) since 2005.
“Elbert is very quick and tough on defense and likes to use their defense to score in quick succession,” Rabun County coach DeeDee Dillard. “We did not do a good job at times of taking care of the ball. We felt pretty good when we got it down to (one point) but then we make some more mistakes.”
Two Lucy Hood free throws to open the fourth quarter pulled Rabun County (18-6) to within 43-42. But the Lady Blue Devils forced five Rabun turnovers during a 15-4 run for a 58-46 lead with just under two minutes left.
“I really like this team. They played hard and gave it everything they had,” Dillard said. “We’re disappointed in the loss but we’ll use this to try and get better and get ready for the state tournament.”
The Lady Wildcats came out firing taking a 6-0 lead in the opening 74 seconds on a 3-pointer from Gracie Detz, a fastbreak layup from Ellie Southards, and a free throw from Carley Haban.
Elbert County, however, used their speedy and tenacious defense to force four Rabun County turnovers to spark an 11-1 run, highlighted by eight straight points, including a pair of 3-pointers, from Terrace Hester for an 11-7 lead.
Rabun battled back to tie the game at 14 to end the opening period but Elbert exploded for a 10-2 run to open the second for a 24-16 advantage. This time, Rabun County used its defense to force three consecutive Elbert turnovers to ignite a 9-2 run to pull within 26-25. The Lady Blue Devils’ Niya Moon gave them a 28-25 halftime lead with a basket at the buzzer.
The third quarter was tight the entire way with Rabun battling back from a pair of five-point deficits to tie the game at 40. But the period ended in the same fashion as the first half with Hester draining a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 43-40 lead.
Aaniyah Allen paced Elbert County with a game-high 20 points. Moon finished with 18 and Hester had 13 for the Lady Blue Devils.
Rabun County was led by Hood with 15 points. Southards had 15 and Sophie Woodard added 7 for the Lady Wildcats.