Safiya Martin locked down Mary Persons’ scorers in the Patriots’ 48-23 Final Four victory.
(Staff Photo by J
The Sandy Creek Lady Patriots travelled down to Fort Valley State University on Saturday to compete in the Final Four of the class AAAA state playoffs against the Mary Persons Lady Bulldogs. While the game was physical from beginning to end, there was little doubt who the better team was. The Lady Patriots were aggressive on defense and poised in their offensive action on their way to wrapping up a 48-23 victory and a spot in the state championship game.
Safiya Martin scored the first bucket of the game on a layup, though her biggest impact always comes from defense and rebounding. Tall and active, Martin controlled the glass on both ends in this game and made scoring tough for the Lady Bulldogs. Martin had only those two points for the game, but with 14 points and four blocks she had as much of an impact as any other player on the court.
"She's an athlete. She's the person that cleans up our back side. You drive in there you're coming into 6'3". Nobody has anything like that. That's why she's going to Temple," coach Cedric King said of Martin, who also spoke about the game's physicality and the team's preparedness for this stage.
"It was hard at the beginning but we knew we had to box out because they're a strong team, both teams were strong. It was just basically whoever wanted the ball more. We've been preparing for this since day one. The regular season games are practice for where we are now," Safiya Martin said.
With Martin anchoring the defense, coach King has his guards attack, and that clearly wore down the Lady Bulldogs as turnovers began to pile up, especially in the second half when the lead was stretched well out of reach.
"That's what we do, we attack," King said.
On the other end, Sandy Creek's perimeter players can all handle the ball and know how to find the weakness in the defense. Guards LaRice Walker and Sydney Jarmon worked off pick and rolls to find their own scoring opportunities early on. Walker hit a floater in the first quarter to give Sandy Creek a 9-7 lead and Jarmon followed up with a nice pull up jumper to make it 11-7. Minnae Harris also pitched in with a three pointer, and the team carried a 13-9 lead into the second quarter. Jasmine Jones added five points of her own in the first half on a sweet pull up jumper and a three pointer.
Sydney Jarmon opened the second frame draining consecutive three pointers to give her team a 19-9 advantage. Jarmon really sparked the scoring in this game for the Lady Patriots with a game-high 18 points. She finished several of the fast breaks generated by the aggressive perimeter defense.
The Lady Bulldogs began to creep back in the third quarter, but Sandy Creek made just enough plays to hold the lead before blowing the game open in a final quarter in which Mary Persons never scored.
Aleah Holden played tough for Mary Persons despite difficulty scoring over Martin in the middle. Holden managed to narrow the Sandy Creek lead to 24-19 before Minnae Harris calmly sank a three pointer, killing the Bulldogs' momentum. Jarmon would sink another trey to make it a 32-23 lead going into the final frame.
In the midst of that mini-comeback by the Lady Bulldogs, senior forward Allie Warren brought a lot of toughness, battling in the paint and bringing down key rebounds for the Patriots.
The fourth quarter quickly got out of hand, as the Sandy Creek defense never let up while the Lady Bulldogs seemed to wear down. Sandy Creek got a flurry of layups, mostly off runouts from turnovers, and opened up a 40-23 lead. Jarmon had six of her 18 points during that decisive stretch. LaRice Walker also piled up a lot of points toward the end as she was repeatedly fouled and went 6-6 from the line. Walker finished with 11 points.
Mary Persons never scored in the final quarter as Sandy Creek rolled up their decisive 25 point victory.
For a Final Four game, the Lady Patriots made this one look pretty easy. That may be due to their belief that this is the stage they have been getting ready for all year.
"This is the moment we've been waiting for," Coach King said, "I told them from day one if they be who they are, I got my money on them any day of the week."
The state championship game will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday in Macon. Sandy Creek will play the Columbia Eagles from Decatur.
Coach King hopes to see a big crowd.