The long-distance shooting of Madison Perez, a 17-0 run and the inability of Statesboro to connect from the free-throw line.
Combined, they were just what Veterans needed to get past Statesboro, 49-47, in the Sweet 16 of the GHSA Class AAAAA state tournament Wednesday on the road.
The Lady Warhawks will take on Buford next in the Elite Eight. The Lady Wolves, at 26-2, rolled past Carrollton 62-32. (And destroyed Chamblee 72-26 the game prior.) They are the No. 1 seed out of Region 8 – Veterans is No. 2 out of Region 1 – and will host.
The senior Perez hit her first two treys in the first quarter – she hit four in all and finished with 12 points. The first two, combined with a basket to start the game by Tamia Luckey and Staci Jones, gave Veterans 10 points at the end of one. Ten was also what the Lady Blue Devils had.
The 17-0 run began with about four minutes remaining in the second quarter. Statesboro had pulled out to a 20-12 lead at that point. It began with another Perez 3-pointer. And oh by the way, sophomore Ansley Miranda proved she was perfectly capable of striking from the same distance. She hit two treys – finished with seven points – the first of which followed Perez’s. That cut it 20-18. The always-consistent Stacie Jones tied it following a Statesboro miss.
Jones finished with 18 points – she also had 11 rebounds – six of which followed the one that tied it. Luckey also had a pair of free throws in there – she was two-for-two from the charity stripe – and the Lady Warhawks had a 31-24 lead at the half; outscoring the host 21-14 that quarter.
That was also the quarter that hurt the Lady Blue Devils the worst at the free-throw line. They made two-of-five in the first quarter but only five-of-12 in the second. They were three-for-four in the third but in the fourth – down the stretch when they needed it the most even – they could manage only two-of-seven.
They did have their leading scorer, Lacy Robins – she came in averaging 19 – get on track in the third quarter. She struggled mightily in the first half but scored eight of her 18 in the third and with a 3-pointer with about three minutes left in the third put Statesboro back on top 36-35. That was part of an 11-2 run that didn’t end until a Jones basket with 40 seconds remaining.
Two free throws by Robins followed that and led to the end of the quarter and a 42-39 lead for the host. It outscored Veterans 18-8 that quarter.
The Lady Blue Devils missed another pair of free throws to start the fourth. Miranda tied it with a trey following. Robins put them back out front with her 3-pointer. She then went to the line twice but came away with only two points.
Jones hit back-to-back baskets to make it a one-point game, 47-46, Lady Blue Devils with 1:35 to go.
Both kind of went into no-man’s land following, missing and/or turning it over, until finally, with 30 seconds, Zkeria Jenkins – two of her four points – hit a layup. Statesboro turned it over on the inbounds pass and was forced to foul. That sent Miranda to the line where she made one-of-two. The Lady Blue Devils inbounded it with just a few ticks left on the clock to which Robins had a good look at a 3-pointer but missed as the buzzer sounded.
Statesboro ended its year 25-4. Veterans continued its, also at 25-4.