Maurice Dixon

@WriturRece |

ATLANTA – When shooting percentages aren’t the best, a little separation in the latter stage of the game usually goes a long way. The Westlake Lady Lions can attest to this.

Thanks to an offensive surge late in the third quarter, the Lady Lions won their first-ever state championship by defeating Newton 60-45 in the 2018 GHSA Class 7-A final at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion on March 10.

“I’m overwhelmed but it was an exciting event and we know without God this wouldn’t have happened because we had our trials and tribulations even though the record shows that we have been doing great things,” Westlake coach Hilda Hankerson said.

For much of the first three quarters, Westlake and Newton went point for point or miss for miss (the final shooting percentages were 34 and 26 percent, respectively) until the Lady Lions went on the first scoring run of the game.

With her team trailing 32-31, Anastasia Warren (22 points) nailed a 3-pointer for the last lead change with 1:10 left in the third. Then Raven Johnson (15 points, 11 rebounds) deflected the ball before running it down and sinking a baseline jumper. And just before the quarter ended, Warren buried another 3-pointer for a 39-32 advantage heading into the final period.

Taylor Hosendove (10 points, six rebounds) converted a steal into a layup to extend the margin to nine with 7:05 remaining in the game. From there, Jurnee Smith (25 points, six rebounds) continued to do all she could to keep the Lady Rams close but Brianna Turnage (10 rebounds, five blocks) was a shot-blocking force down the stretch while Westlake padded its lead at the foul line en route to the most monumental double-digit victory in program history.

“We knew that it was going to be close because everybody is fighting for their life this time of the season,” Hankerson said. “[Tiffani Johnson] coaches very well. She has a great team and we’ve been competitors for a long time. It was just a great season and we’re thankful for it.”

Alexcia Chatman had 13 points, seven boards and three steals for Newton.

“It was a wonderful experience to play on that stage,” Newton’s Johnson told The Covington News. “That’s something that can’t be taken away. Yes, the ring would’ve made it sweeter but I’m happy we made it here. We proved some naysayers wrong. I would’ve loved to come away with a win but it doesn’t negate the positivity and progress of putting Newton on the map.”