Pierce County ended Tattnall County’s region dominance knocking off the four-time champions 58-50 here Thursday night in the Region 1-AAA championship game.
PCHS (17-6), winners of 10 straight game, hosted Region 4 fourth-seed Hepzibah (8-11) Tuesday, February 23. The winner advances to a second-round pairing Friday (February 26) or Saturday (February 27) between the winner of Region 2 runner-up Jackson (12-7) and Region 3 runner-up Liberty County (6-4).
The second-seed Lady Bears handed top-seed Tattnall County (14-6) its first home loss of the season (54-10 last five years) February 18. Tattnall County has lost just two region home games since 2017-18 — both to PCHS.
The championship matchup marked the fifth consecutive year the two teams have met for the title. Tattnall County won 39-38 in 2017 at home, 53-45 in 2018 at home, 58-31 in 2019 at home, and 48-35 last year in Ludowici.
The Lady Bears opened the tournament winning 64-20 against third-seed Brantley County in the semifinals Tuesday, February 16. It was the 11th victory in the last 12 meetings against the Lady Herons dating back five seasons.
No. 2 Lady Bears 58
No. 1 Tattnall Co. 50
Natalie Herrin’s 14-foot jumper with 2:52 to play gave Pierce County the lead for good en route to the championship win.
PCHS outscored the Lady Warriors 15-3 over the last 3:54 of the game after letting a three-point advantage at the start of the final period slip away into a four-point deficit.
Down 47-43 after Tattnall County converted two technical foul free throws, Tivona Myles (seven points) scored on an ole’ fashion three-point play cutting the margin to 47-46. Following a score by the Lady Warriors off an offensive rebound, PCHS capitalized off an offensive rebound and putback by Makayla Etheridge (eight points) to trail 49-48 with 3:22 remaining.
Herrin (game-high 23 points) pulled up hitting the go-ahead jumper 30 seconds later for a 50-49 lead. She would score on consecutive possessions at 1:48 and 1:16 giving PCHS a 54-49 advantage.
A free throw by Sarah Davis (four points) and her assist to Myles in the last 34 seconds, along with a technical foul shot from Myles, sealed the win after the Lady Warriors pulled to within 54-50 with 53 seconds on the clock.
The game was a defensive slobber-knocker with players knocked to the floor or into the bleachers and benches along the sidelines with few fouls called. The two teams combined for 65 turnovers with PCHS committing 38.
The difference was in shooting. When the Lady Bears were able to hold on to the ball against the very tight and physical man-to-man defense, they connected on 24-of-51 shots (47 percent) compared to Tattnall County’s 19-of-76 (25 percent) outing.
Pierce County scored the first five points of game while the Lady Warriors opened with 11 consecutive empty possessions (0-for-2, nine turnovers) before finally breaking through at the 3:50 mark. The game was tied at 10-all after one period.
Trailing for the first time at 12-10 after Tattnall County scored the first points of the second stanza, PCHS scored the next eight points opening up the biggest lead of the game at 18-12 with 4:05 to play in the half.
The Lady Warriors stormed back scoring eight of the next 10 points tying the score at 20-apiece with 1:25 left before intermission. Tattnall County scored the last basket of the half — a three — for a 25-22 halftime lead.
Pierce County’s deficit came after committing 27 turnovers in the first 16 minutes.
Tattnall County twice extended its advantage to five points in the third period, the last at 29-24 with 6:40 on the clock. The Lady Bears responded with six consecutive points, the last two on Kennedi Sikes’ (six points) putback of an offensive rebound for a 30-29 lead with 4:50 remaining in the quarter.
The lead changed five times over the next 2:36 with Molly Scruggs’ (five points) trey from the top of the key giving PCHS a 35-33 lead.
A tying basket by the Lady Warriors was followed by a 6-3 closing spurt by Pierce County over the final 1:40 of the period for a 41-38 lead.
Sikes’ 12-foot jumper was the Lady Bears’ lone two points in the first 4:06 of the final stanza as Tattnall County outscored PCHS 9-2 in grabbing a 47-43 lead.
Ashley Joyce paced Tattnall County with 18 points. Macey Ansell contributed 11 points.
No. 2 Lady Bears 64
No. 3 Lady Herons 20
Pierce County outscored the cold-shooting Lady Herons 27-0 from long distance in recording the win to advance.
PCHS finished the game with nine treys amongst its 24 total made baskets on 58 attempts (41 percent). Brantley County struggled from the floor with just four baskets in 37 tries (11 percent).
The Lady Herons also turned the ball over 24 times compared to Pierce County’s 10, half coming in the “mercy rule” fourth quarter.
Herrin outscored the Lady Herons finishing with a game-high 21 points while connecting on two treys. Myles had 14 points on four treys and Scruggs netted 13 points on three treys. PCHS did its damage while missing two starters who did not suit up — Tresuir Myles and Makayla Etheridge.
The Lady Herons were paced by Sydnie Middleton’s seven points, five coming from the free throw line.
Brantley County suffered through long stretches between field goals during the game. The first covered 12:20 of the first half, the second was 6:58 from the second quarter into the third period, and the last was the final 8:25 of the game.
The Lady Herons scored the first basket of the afternoon on Middleton’s 12-foot jumper one minute in. Scrugg’s trey 31 seconds later gave PCHS the lead for good at 3-2. A three from Myles was followed by Brantley County’s last basket for next 12:20. Calen Raulerson’s lone basket cut the deficit to 6-4 with 5:30 to play in the opening period.
PCHS closed the period with a 7-1 spurt for a 13-5 advantage.
Herrin’s three from the left wing at the 6:40 mark put the lead in double digits at 17-5. That would be the scoring margin for the quarter as well as the Lady Bears built a comfortable 30-10 lead at intermission.
Lindy Lowther’s 15-foot jumper with 1:10 to play in the half netted the Lady Herons double digits. Brantley County made just 3-of-25 shots (12 percent) in the first half.
Pierce County’s margin surpassed the 30-point mark with 4:45 to play in the third quarter on Harley White’s (six points) layup for a 43-12 advantage. The Lady Bears would lead 51-14 with 2:45 remaining in the period when Brantley County used a 5-2 spurt to get to within 53-19.
PCHS stretched the lead to 60-19 in the first 1:50 of the final period before the Lady Heron’s Abby Williams hit a free throw for their only point of the quarter with 3:50 on the clock. Neither team scored in the final 2:25 as the teams combined for nine missed shots and seven turnovers.
The Lady Bears’ other contributions came from Sikes and Davis, who netted three points apiece, and Natalee Griffin and Reagan Larson, who bagged two points each.
Brantley County received two points apiece from Amelia Crews and Chasadee Waldron, and a free throw each from Reagan Bowers and Alexis Rowell.