In the fourth quarter, Model cracked the code.
Rebounding from Darlington’s attempts to put the game away through three periods, the Lady Blue Devils shut down the Lady Tigers in the final eight minutes to take a 50-39 win on Tuesday night at Georgia Highlands College.
Model outscored Darlington 16-0 in the fourth quarter, taking them from down 39-34 to a victory and into the championship game of the 65th edition of the holiday competition.
“I’m proud of our girls’ defense. I’m proud of their perseverance,” Model girls coach Sally Echols said. “Coming in we knew Darlington had a great team. They were undefeated with great players and a great coach — all the things you have to defend against. And we were finally able to do that in the fourth quarter.”
The Lady Devils (10-3) are paired up with Rome High in the tournament finals for the third year in a row and will meet at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday at Berry College’s Cage Center.
Darlington held the edge over Model from the start of the game, opening with a 7-0 run and increasing its lead to 28-17 in the second quarter following a 10-0 stretch.
But the Lady Devils kept finding ways to climb back within range each time, getting a 3-pointer from Madison Moats at the end of the second period to go into halftime down just 31-25.
A string of contested shots by Libby Upton in the third helped match Darlington’s output leading up to the decisive final quarter.
“I think the biggest thing on our team is every single player, one through twelve, plays a very important role,” Echols said. “Whether they start a game, finish a game or play somewhere in between, we tell them to make the most of every second they are on the court, and we had several players do that tonight.”
Moats came off the bench in the fourth after Nia Allen fouled out and proceeded to hit a jump shot and a 3-pointer, which gave Model its first lead of the game with 4:31 left.
Darlington (6-1) was called for a 10-second backcourt violation and Annabelle Braden — who was the Lady Tigers’ leading scorer — fouled out, pulling more momentum Model’s way in the final three minutes.
Megan Kent paced the Lady Devils with 13 points with limited action in the second half after getting her fourth foul. Madison Harper finished with 10 points, four of which came in the final period, while Moats had nine total.
Braden had 11 points, including two 3-pointers, while Caroline Dingler was 3-of-6 from the line and finished with nine points.
Darlington will take on Coosa in Thursday’s third-place game at 5:30 p.m., also at Berry College.