ALPHARETTA – The St. Francis girls were too much for Pinecrest Academy as they knocked off the Paladins 77-35 on Tuesday night to advance to the Final Four of the GHSA Class A-private state tournament.
This was the 18th win in a row for the Knights (26-4), and the fourth time this year that they’ve defeated the Paladins (21-7).
“They’re amazing. They really are,” Pinecrest head coach Ken Lacy said. “It’s not just that they’re big; they’re good at what they do. They know how to finish. They’re not just good offensively. They’re good defensively. Tip my hat to them.”
Pinecrest hung with St. Francis early, trailing 10-5 at the end of the first quarter, but the Knights turned it on in the second quarter, opening on a 19-0 run on their way to a 35-12 halftime lead.
“We had a plan to do some four corners and do some stall stuff,” Lacy said. “The first quarter went exactly how we wanted it to, but we couldn’t hit anything. And of course once you get down, you’ve got to go back to what you do.”
It was more of the same to start the third quarter, as St. Francis opened on a 13-0 run to effectively put the game out of reach.
But it wasn’t for a lack of effort. The Paladins scored 23 points in the second half, nearly doubling their total from the first half.
“In the third quarter our coach called us over and said, look, we’re just going to play good ol’ Pinecrest basketball,” Pinecrest’s Margaret Metz said. “Blitz up and down, fast break as hard as we can, and I think we played well ending like that.”
The Knights’ defense was stifling, forcing the Paladins into 19 turnovers and 13-for-53 shooting from the field, including 5-for-22 on threes.
St. Francis had five different players in double figures in this game. Tennessee signee Kasiyahna Kushkituah led the way with 15 points, while Stanford signee Maya Dodson was held to just 10.
Margaret and Regina Metz each led the way for Pinecrest with 10 points apiece.
Pinecrest knew what they were up against coming into this matchup, and Lacy is proud of what his team accomplished this season.
“Well it’s the best we’ve ever done in our history,” Lacy said. “We had eight girls early on, then lost one to injury. To pretty much have seven girls the majority of the way and get to the final eight, you can’t ask for more than that.”