steve.carter@gaflnews.com



ALBANY - Down by nine points in the fourth quarter, the Turner County Lady Rebels fought back to force overtime Saturday afternoon against the Early County Lady Bobcats. However, Early rebounded to defeat Turner 41-39 in the state Class AA basketball quarterfinals played here at the Albany Civic Center.

While Turner's season ends at 18-10, Early will advance to the state semifinals at the Macon Coliseum Thursday. The Lady Bobcats will play the winner between Paideia and Blessed Trinity. That game was played Saturday afternoon in Rome and the outcome was not known at press time.

Lady Rebels head coach Tony Hobbs was disappointed in his team's loss, but was happy with the overall results of his team's season.

"You can't be disappointed in an elite eight appearance. The thing I am proud of though is this crew was given a chance to be playing for a chance at the final four," said Hobbs.

Early and Turner were familiar with each other. Both squads are in Region 1-AA and the Lady Bobcats had won the previous two meetings between the teams.

Early went into Saturday's game as the number three ranked team in the state. That meant in Turner's three playoff games, the Lady Rebels played the number-one ranked team, Cook, as well as Early.

"If nothing else, I think we proved we belonged with the best teams in the state today. We got beat by a better team today, but I think we showed we belonged on the court with them," stated Hobbs.

After being down by nine, 29-20, early in the fourth quarter, the Lady Rebels staged a comeback. That was completed on a basket by Ronalda Pierce that tied the score at 32-32 with 14.5 seconds left in the game. The senior then blocked a shot by Early's Lynn Moses as the buzzer sounded to send the game into overtime.

After scoring 52 points and pulling down 27 boards in Thursday's 69-63 win over Jeff Davis, Pierce was held to 12 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocked shots Saturday

Early got off to a quick start in the overtime. The Lady Bobcats got a basket by Courtney Chapman with 3:35 left. Turner was then accessed a technical foul as the Lady Rebels were called for playing too close to the Early player inbounding the ball for the second time. Erica McCoy hit both of those shots to give Early a 36-32 lead with 2:57 left in the overtime.

Turner then responded with five quick points. Shavonne King hit two free throws and Tiffany Denham hit a long three. That shot with 2:10 left gave Turner a 37-36 advantage. It was the first advantage the Lady Rebels had since the 4:20 mark of the second quarter.

The Lady Rebels stretched their lead when King stole the ball and scored on a layup with 1:24 left.

After a hoop by Early's Miranda Wright with 48.5 seconds left, the Lady Bobcats fouled Pierce to send her to the line. With 23.9 seconds left, the senior missed the front end of a one-and-one and Early rebounded the ball.

With 12.7 seconds left, Pierce fouled Early's Bridgett Williams to send her to the line. It was the fifth foul for the Turner senior. Williams made the first shot to tie the game, but missed the second. However, McCoy rebounded the ball and put it up to score two points.

Down 41-39, Hobbs called a time out. The Lady Rebels came down the court and Shekeda Thomas was fouled by McCoy with one-tenth of a second on the game clock. Thomas missed the first shot and missed the second on purpose, but McCoy rebounded the ball to seal the win.

"We had a total team effort today. That is what we had to have to stay on the court with a team like Early. We just came up short," Hobbs said.

Besides Pierce with 12, Turner's other leading scorers were Thomas with eight, as well as King and Jasmine Bryant with seven points each.



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