Wednesday April 17th, 2024 9:20AM

STATE CHAMPS! Lady Lions capture 1st-ever state title

By Jeff Hart | Video by Seth Chapman

COLUMBUS, Ga. — For Dynesty Putman and the rest of the Lakeview Academy girls basketball team, Friday’s GIAA Class 3A state title game against Deerfield-Windsor represented a shot at redemption and history.

They got both.

Putman scored 25 points to spark a balanced offense and ignited a 10-0 run in the third quarter that helped propel the Lady Lions to a 54-45 win over the Lady Knights to capture the program’s first-ever state title.

It also avenged a loss in last year’s Class 3A semifinals to Deerfield after several key Lady Lions suffered injuries before and during the game.

“It feels amazing,” the junior guard said. “We weren’t healthy going into that game last year so we felt having everybody healthy we had a great chance to win this time. I thought we played really well as a group all night.”

While the Lady Lions offense was balanced throughout, it was the Lakeview defense that turned the game around. Lakeview used a 10-0 run to start the third quarter, sparked by 6 Deerfield turnovers in its first eight possessions that led to 10 points.

Putman had two steals in the defensive onslaught while also drawing the tough assignment against Deerfield’s dynamic Joi Hubbard most of the game. Hubbard finished with 25 points, but only one other Deerfield player, Gabrielle Harris (12 points), had more than 4.

“Dynesty is what Dynesty does,” Lakeview coach Ken Huffman said. “That was a great battle, and Dynesty used a lot of energy on the defensive end. But I told them we can’t let their two players beat our five. I thought we did a great job in the third quarter taking control with our defense.”

The 10-0 run gave Lakeview a 33-22 lead, which ballooned to 35-24 on a Kivana Bogne basket. The Lady Lions maintained that until Hubbard’s three-point play late in the third quarter closed the gap to 41-33.

An Emyrie Combs basket and a drive by Putman pushed the Lakeview lead to 45-33 early in the fourth and the Lady Knights (24-6) would only get as close as 51-45 on another Hubbard three-point play with 1:18 left.

The Lady Lions sealed the game with a Taylor Clark drive and layup and a Putman free throw in the final 30 seconds.

After just four turnovers in the first half, Deerfield finished with 17 for the game, which the Lady Lions turned into 16 points. Taliah Gaither finished with four blocks to go with 9 points. Clark added 6 points, all in the second half for Lakeview.

Huffman, who was able to guide Lakeview to its first title in his first season, feels they are poised for the long haul.

“We lose five seniors, and they have meant a lot to this program,” he said. “But we have the core of the team returning, including four starters, so I feel like we have a chance to try and defend the title next year. But we’re going to enjoy this for right now. It’s just a fantastic feeling.”

Lakeview (27-1) opened the game with a pair of Putman drives for a 4-0 lead in the first two minutes as they held Deerfield to 0-for-5 shooting. The Lady Knights pulled with 4-3 on a Hampton Rushton free throw, but Combs made it 8-5 on a stick-back basket with 1:57 left in the first quarter.

Deerfield answered with a 6-0 run to eventually take an 11-10 lead into the second quarter. Lakeview answered that with a 13-2 run, capped by two Putman baskets for a 21-13 midway through the second.

Hubbard finally got going for the Lady Knights, scoring seven straight points to pull Deerfield within 21-20, but Lakeview would take a 23-22 advantage into the half.

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