The Heritage Lady Hawks are back in the GISA semifinals after a year’s absence after pushing past upset-minded Frederica Academy 50-40.
Frederica, the No. 4 seed from Region 2, knocked off Region 4 champion John Milledge to reach the second round of the 16-team GISA state tournament.
Heritage School (20-5) returns to the GISA Final Four for the first time since winning the 2016-17 Class AAA crown, with five seniors helping lead the way for longtime head coach D.J. Clay.
The Lady Hawks will face Region 2 champion Pinewood in Thursday’s semifinals at Georgia Southwestern, which will host this year’s GISA Final Four after previously the site of Elite 8 games. Game time for Heritage and Pinewood is set for 6:30 p.m.
The two schools also met in the 2016-17 semifinals in a game won by Heritage 41-27 on its way to a title while led by four seniors including current North Georgia sophomore Kara Groover.
Defending Class AAA champion Holy Spirit, which won its second straight Region 1 title this year, faces Region 3 champion Southland in the other girls semifinal matchup.
The GISA finals are scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 23 at 6:40 p.m.
In its quarterfinal victory at Stratford Academy in Macon, Heritage matched Frederica basket for basket in an uptempo opening quarter that ended in an 18-18 deadlock.
Clay’s lineup pulled ahead for good in the second while clamping down defensively on Lady Knights standout Jadyn Scott after scoring 11 of Frederica’s first 18 points.
Scott was held scoreless in the second, managing just one field goal over the final 24 minutes.
After taking a slim 27-24 lead into halftime, the Lady Hawks spread 16 points in the third among five players that contributed field goals, getting a pair from senior Tricia Underwood, and one each from seniors Carissa Vazquez and Emily Cushing. Emily Walker and Aaliyah Ferrill also scored in the third as Heritage took a 43-35 lead into the final period.
Cushing, Vazquez, Walker and junior Olivia Ayers each had a pair of baskets in the opening quarter.
Heritage limited Frederica to just a pair of baskets in the fourth in the Lady Knights’ lowest output of any quarter while finishing out the win.
A balanced effort offensively had Ayers, Walker and Vazquez each leading the team with nine points. Cushing added seven points and Ferrell and Underwood each finished with six. Kendall Stephens added four among seven scorer