Pinecrest Academy girls basketball crossed off two milestones at once Friday.
Playing their first state tournament game at home since joining the GHSA, the Lady Paladins cruised 74-38 against Savannah Country Day to their first-ever state tournament win.
Margaret Metz led the way with 31 points, 13 rebounds and four assists, while Regina Metz added 20 points and five rebounds and Maddie Lynch had 10 points and six rebounds.
Pinecrest (20-6) advances to play Landmark Christian on Wednesday in the second round of the Class 1A private school tournament.
“It feels really good,” said Margaret Metz, a senior, “especially putting in all the work these past three years, it just means a lot.”
Three years ago, Pinecrest made its first GHSA state tournament appearance but lost in the first round on the road. Last season, the Lady Paladins missed the state tournament, a casualty of the GHSA’s Class A Power Ratings despite a 16-9 record and runner-up finish in its region to national power St. Francis.
Pinecrest did much of the same this season, but it found itself in more favorable position: back in the state tournament, the No. 9 overall seed, with home-court in Class 1A’s new 24-team format.
The Lady Paladins put it to good use, racing out to a 10-2 lead. Savannah Country Day closed within 10-8, but Margaret Metz made a fast-break layup to finish off a 9-0 run to end the quarter for a 19-8 lead.
Even when Savannah Country Day trimmed Pinecrest’s 14-point lead early in the second quarter to eight, the Lady Paladins responded with a 10-0 run to take control and a 34-16 lead. Ella Binkley drained a deep 3 at the halftime buzzer to put Pinecrest up by 20 points.
The Lady Paladins managed their two potential downfalls well enough.
The first, their roster. It is small, and so Pinecrest must play with controlled freneticism to stay out of foul trouble. That was the source of Coach Ken Lacy’s fiercest consternation in the first half as the Lady Paladins reached the bonus with eight fouls with 3:01 left in the second quarter.
“We kind of like that total for the game,” Lacy said. “So, I wasn’t too pleased with that. Probably just too much adrenaline early on.”
The second, Savannah Country Day’s advantage in height and length. The Lady Hornets walked on to the court before tipoff looking like it could exploit Pinecrest’s lack of size with three players 6-feet or taller, particularly sophomore center Madaline Wynn. She entered averaging a double-double, and got another one Friday with 10 points and 14 rebounds.
But Pinecrest was undeterred. It faced St. Francis three times again this season. It faced Greenforest Christian and South Forsyth and West Forsyth, all teams with formidable post players.
“We’re kind of used to that,” Lacy said, “and when I watched film, while she was tall I didn’t feel she was aggressive as some of the other taller ones we’ve played.”
The Lady Paladins simply ran by Savannah Country Day’s size and into the second round.