Maurice Dixon

@WriturRece |

COLUMBUS (GA) – Whether you have the advantage in size, speed or athleticism, you have to capitalize on whatever that advantage is. Since Holy Innocents did, the Lady Golden Bears are playing for the state title again.

Jillian Hollingshead, who is 6-3 and just a freshman, collected 18 points and eight rebounds as Holy Innocents took control in the second quarter of a 51-32 victory over Stratford Academy in the 2018 GHSA Class A private semifinals at Columbus State University (Frank G. Lumpkin Center) on March 2.

Now in the final girls’ Class A private contest of the season, the Lady Bears will meet Wesleyan at Georgia Tech on March 9.

“I’m just really proud of my girls,” Holy Innocents coach Nichole Dixon said. “They’ve worked hard since the ball basically stopped last year. They’ve done a really good job in the offseason and during this season.”

After making her presence felt in the paint in the first quarter, Hollingshead continued that trend in the second quarter to help Holy Innocents build a 25-15 advantage at the break. Hollingshead had 12 points in the first 16 minutes.

“She played big,” said Dixon of Hollingshead. “She played well beyond her years today offensively. She made some really good adjustments defensively. She pulled out some big blocks for us. I was really impressed by her composure. She never got rattled. She was getting beat right around her lower back and not once did she get upset about it. She kept crashing the boards even more and making big stops.”

The margin on the scoreboard remained the same in the third quarter since the Lady Golden Bears couldn’t pull away and the Lady Eagles were unable to close the gap.

Early in the fourth quarter, Holy Innocents essentially secured its return to the championship game with a 9-0 run to start the frame. Jada Farrell’s jumper ignited the surge then a 3-pointer by Rachel Suttle (12 points), and layins by Kennedy Suttle and Hollingshead (all three buckets came on assists from Kaila Hubbard, who finished with 11) pushed the lead to 43-24.

“Three years in a row [Kaila] was our leading scorer and this year too,” Dixon said. “What makes her so special is that she was able to go from being the leading scorer to our point guard and still be the leading scorer while still being able to have seven or more assists per game. She knows her teammates really well and she’s always looking for them. She wants to make them look good.”

Senior Carey Woodcock led Stratford with 12 points.

Last season, Holy Innocents lost the tournament finale to Wesleyan 51-48.