Friday April 19th, 2024 11:10PM

Girls basketball playoffs: Despite 42 from Black, Chestatee denied Final 4 berth by Fayette Co.

By Jeff Hart | Video by Seth Chapman

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — In what turned out to be her final game for Chestatee, Riley Black may have turned in her finest performance Tuesday in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A tournament against Fayette County.

The West Georgia signee poured in a career-high 42 points, 33 in the second half, and nearly carried the Lady War Eagles single-handedly into their first-ever Final Four. But Fayette County spoiled their party, using a 20-11 run over the final four minutes to rally for a physical 77-71 victory at the Lynn Cottrell Center.

It was the second consecutive season Chestatee had its season end in the Elite 8 round at home. However, Chestatee coach Sutton Shirley said the defining character of his team over the past two seasons is their ability to get off the deck, not the two losses.

“First, I’ve been around varsity basketball most of my life, and I’ll probably never coach another player like Riley,” Shirley said. “To watch her set another program scoring record [most points in a game] and then to finish with over 2,200 points and 1,100 rebounds is just a testament to the hard work she has put in from Day 1.

“As a team, these girls have faced so many adverse situations, and they never quit. They just play so hard and find ways to get it done. But the (physicality) of the game as a whole probably had something to do by the end of the game for sure.”

Defensively, Chestatee (25-6) had held down the taller Lady Tigers to just 12 points in the third quarter, while Black scored 11 straight points on her own to tie the game at 43. A Sierra Yarbrough basket moments later gave the Lady War Eagles their first lead since the opening minutes of the game.

The two teams swapped four lead changes to open the fourth quarter, with Chestatee taking a 60-56 lead, their biggest of the game, on a Black basket with 4:04 left.

“We were down seven, but we just talked that wasn’t much for us and that we just needed to come out (in the third quarter) and grab the momentum,” Black said. ‘We did that, and we felt pretty good.”

But 6-foot-2 Fayette County sophomore center Anaya Ferguson and 5-foot-11 junior Megan Ohonde would use their size inside to spark a 15-4 run, including a desperation 3-pointer from Ferguson as the shot clock wound down, capped by Ohonde’s fastbreak basket with just 44 seconds left for a 71-64 lead.

Ferguson and Ohonde each finished with 19 points. Ferguson added 7 blocks as the Lady Tigers finished with 11 blocks on the night. But 5-5 guard Deyla McCoy paced Fayette County with 23 points as the Chestatee defense was forced to collapse inside.

“I thought we did a good job of that in the third quarter. But (Ferguson) was very physical, and we just didn’t have anyone that could guard her. She was tough,” Black said.

It was a defensive slugfest in the first four minutes of the game, with Chestatee leading 6-3, but then Fayette County dialed up its press with tremendous effect.

The Lady Tigers forced three straight Chestatee turnovers for three quick baskets and a 12-6 lead while they also shut down Black for the most part. Black would get 9 first-half points, but she was just 3-of-11 from the field as she was double and sometimes triple-teamed by a taller Fayette County defense.

Fayette County pushed its lead to 18-11 by the end of the first quarter, and a 3-pointer by Samanta Ohonde made it 21-11 to open the second. A 3-pointer by McCoy made it 26-15 midway through the second.

But Chestatee was finally able to find some range as Addison Boyd hit a 3-pointer, Black converted a three-point play, and Caroline Bull hit a long trey to cap a 10-0 run to pull within 26-25. But the Lady Tigers closed out the half with a 9-3 spurt, holding Chestatee to just one Blakely Boyd stick-back basket over the final four minutes for a 35-28 lead.

Fayette County advances to take on the Stockbridge/Baldwin winner in Saturday’s 1 p.m. Class 4A semifinal at Ft. Valley State.

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