ROME – The name of the game in high school basketball is to get hot at the right time, and the Gordon Central Lady Warriors have accomplished that in the last few games.
Gordon Central continued their trend of playing their best ball of the season on Tuesday night and turned it into program history with a 73-63 victory over Armuchee at the Region 7-AA Tournament to clinch their first-ever state tournament berth.
“I’m so proud of our girls and their effort,” said Gordon Central coach Matt Swanson. “They were so nervous before the game, but they came out and played so well. Everyone that played tonight contributed to this win.
“This is history for our program. For us to earn our first state tournament berth is incredible. These girls have put in the work and effort to get better and accomplish this goal. Our goal back when we went to camp over the summer was to make the state tournament, and we made that happen. We came together as a team, and I’m proud to coach these girls. This is a historic day for us.”
The Lady Warriors (9-13) came out confidently in the game and maintained an aggressive mindset throughout all four quarters. They hit four 3-pointers in the first quarter to lead 16-13 at the end of the period. After Armuchee (13-12) rallied to take a 22-21 lead midway through the second, Gordon Central went on a 10-2 run to take a 31-24 lead into the locker room.
Armuchee showed resiliency in the third quarter, specifically senior Livia Skinner, who scored 10 points in that period alone to pull her team within two at 42-40 late in the quarter, but Gordon Central answered once again to push their lead back out to 50-41 heading to the fourth.
The Lady Indians made one final charge early in the fourth to cut the deficit to 54-50, but that was as close as they got as the trio of Mercedes Coleman, Cara Crump and Cheyenne Temple closed the game out with some big buckets and free throws for Gordon Central.
The freshman Coleman led all scorers in the game with 30 points, including nine in the fourth quarter. Crump had a huge night as well with 24 points, including four 3-pointers, and Temple added eight points from her post position.
“I told the girls before the game to be aggressive and play to win, and they listened,” said Swanson. “We were aggressive until the very end. Even in the fourth quarter when most teams with a lead would try to use some clock, our girls kept going to the basket and trying to score. Mercedes and Cara played about as well as a combo could play tonight. We got some scoring in the post tonight too from Cheyenne and Bailey (Ferguson). It was just an incredible night for us.”
Skinner led Armuchee with 29 points as she scored 20 in the second half alone. Brandy Ann Wacker added 14 points, and Karson Fallin scored nine, all coming on her three made 3s.
The win moves Gordon Central into the region semifinals on Friday against Rockmart at 7 p.m. Swanson said his team would celebrate the State berth but quickly turn their attention to getting ready for the Lady Jackets.
“We’re going to take the day off tomorrow and enjoy this one some,” said Swanson. “But we’re going to get ready to play Rockmart on Friday and try to carry some of this momentum over to that game. We’ve never played in the state tournament before, but if we can win against Rockmart we can add hosting a state tournament game to our list of firsts.”
The four Gordon Central seniors had a lot to say afterwards.
“I’m so happy,” said senior Leslie Gutierrez. “This is the first time ever for the Gordon Central girls team to make it to State, and for it to be our senior class that was a part of it means so much.”
“It’s crazy…we’ve gone through so much, ups and downs, two coaches, but our hard work has definitely paid off,” added senior Olivia Fleming.
“I’m so proud for my team,” said senior Bailey Ferguson. “We worked together to make this happen. It wasn’t one person that did it, it was all of us working together since this past summer.”
“This means a lot to all of us,” added senior JaBresha Evans. “We had to go through so much to get here, but we’ve worked hard every day this year and for the past few years and now we’re going to State.”