In the span of about two minutes, the Lady Blue Devils found the defensive prowess that has been their calling card and shook the visiting Dodge County Lady Indians, setting off a chain reaction that led to a 79-63 win in the Class AA state quarterfinals.
Model’s next test comes Saturday when the No. 6-ranked Lady Devils face No. 1 Laney in a Class AA semifinal rematch at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m.
After winning the right to host Tuesday’s game via a coin flip, Model fed off the home-court advantage with a packed Woodard Gymnasium cheering on the four-time Region 7-AA champions.
“I think the atmosphere of this gym was just electrifying. And I think that fueled our energy even above the hype level,” Model coach Sally Echols said. “But once we settled in I felt like we were playing at home. Our fans were incredible. It was just an awesome experience tonight all around.”
Holding onto a 13-12 lead after the first period, Model caught fire in the next quarter posting two separate 13-2 runs and disrupting any offensive rhythm Dodge County had built in the opening eight minutes.
Victaria Saxton and Moe Welch sparked the turnaround as they each had steals that led to Lady Devil points. Then Libby Upton grabbed the reins to hit a pair of 3-pointers and score 13 points in the period.
Model (25-3) got one last dagger from Montana Moats, who sank a trey in the final 20 seconds of the half, and the Lady Devils entered halftime with a 42-26 lead.
“It’s one of those things where, at some point, you just kind of turn it over to God and what happens, it belongs to Him anyway,” Echols said about her team’s performance.
“I think that this season has been very indicative of that. These girls have so much passion and so much heart that it’s really been a unique season, really just one of a kind.”
Model closed out the third period with an 11-2 run to take a 60-38 lead into the final quarter. That only grew more in the fourth, with the Lady Devils up by as many as 27 (79-52) before Echols began to substitute players in the final two-and-a-half minutes.
Upton and Saxton once again led the way for Model on offense with Upton finishing with 27 points, including three 3’s. Saxton, the senior center who is set to suit up for South Carolina after graduation, posted a triple-double with 24 points, a tremendous 29 rebounds and 10 blocks, not to mention six assists.
Megan Kent added 10 points for the Lady Devils, followed by Welch with eight and Moats with seven.
“It was a gritty, grinding game. It wasn’t pretty. There were some turnovers, and they’re scrappy,” Echols said. “But I think the girls’ hearts were laid out there on the floor, and they were able to execute the game plan very well.”
Dodge County (25-5) used their fast-paced style to get the better of Model early, but the Lady Indians ran into foul trouble early, leading to some of their best players getting reduced minutes in the first half.
Destanee Wright was the only player for Dodge County to reach double digits scoring, finishing with 41 points and going 24-of-28 at the free throw line. The rest of her team went 2-of-6.