CARROLLTON – Jenna Staiti logged a triple-double, scoring 35 points for a third straight playoff game to lead West Forsyth to a 49-39 win over Cherokee Friday in the Class AAAAAA state quarterfinals at the University of West Georgia's coliseum.
West (25-6) will turn around to play in the same venue at 6:30 p.m. Saturday against the winner of McEachern and Westlake in the semifinals. It's the farthest the team has advanced in the state playoffs in school history.
While the Lady Wolverines came out with defensive intensity from the start of the game, they struggled to get into an offensive rhythm. West head coach David May was encouraged, however, as his guards Carsen Parker, Hayla Seitz and Jane Ortlip denied Cherokee's shooters. Cherokee did not have an assisted basket until the fourth quarter.
“We held them to 10 points (in the first half) and they have some really good shooters,” May said. “I thought we did a really good job of forcing their ball into the post and Jenna, I don't know how many blocks she had, but she did a great job defending the backside.”
West led 26-10 at halftime and then built a 45-29 lead mid-way through the fourth quarter before one more late run by Cherokee cut the deficit to 10 in the waning moments. May thought getting through the first game on such a big stage was key.
“That's the thing. You know coming in you're going to be a little nervous on a bigger stage, in a big game, in a big arena. It's good to get that out of the way before playing a very good team tomorrow,” May said. “I thought the girls handled the stage well.”
Staiti made 14 of West's 19 field goals, all from the low post, as her teammates totaled 17 total assists. West's early offense went through Staiti, who assisted Kalie Schlegel twice in a row for the team's first two field goals. Schlegel finished as the only other West player with multiple made baskets (six points), while Ortlip and Seitz both knocked down 3-pointers in big moments.
Staiti did not step out for a 3-pointer like she has with ease in recent weeks. Instead, she lived in the paint. Just like he has all year, May highlighted how his other starters created Staiti's looks.
“I wouldn't say she makes [the game] easy but she makes it easier,” May said of Staiti. “We knew we had a size advantage, but our girls did a great job of getting to the open spots too. When you double team her you're going to leave someone open somewhere.”
Cherokee was led by Lacie McCoy, who scored nine points and had three rebounds, while Havyn Wilson added nine on three 3-pointers.
If West happens to face McEachern, they'll see familiar faces. The Lady Indians (22-7), who have won the previous two AAAAAA titles, defeated West 58-37 on Jan. 30. Westlake is 25-5.