DACULA — The Apalachee girls basketball team was in good shape for the first half of Wednesday's GHSA Region 8-AAAAAA first-round tournament game against Dacula, taking a one-point lead into the locker room.
But the Lady Falcons got red hot in the second half, going on a huge run to topple the Lady Wildcats 61-43.
Apalachee’s season came to a close at 6-19.
The Lady Wildcats, who were vying for a spot in the region semifinals and their first-ever state playoff berth, led by as many as six points early in the second quarter and then got into a back-and-forth seesaw battle with Dacula before going up 21-20 on a pair of Nikki Hooks free throws with 2.6 seconds remaining.
The Lady Falcons set the tone of the second half early in the third when Alyssa Criscolo knocked down a 3-pointer to put them up 23-21. After Apalachee briefly tied the game, Dacula then went on a 14-5 tear and carried a seven-point advantage into the fourth quarter.
Criscolo hit another three early in the final period to boost the lead to 10 and Dacula continued to roll from there.
“That’s the thing about Dacula. Once they get hot, they’ve got three or four people from the outside who can really hurt you,” Apalachee coach Gary Compton said after the loss. “It’s tough for our team to get down like that. We just couldn’t ever get in sync offensively and we had a couple of breakdowns on defense that opened the door for them.”
The Lady Wildcats were again led in scoring by Hooks, who finished with 20 points, closing out a strong sophomore season that saw her lead the team in scoring and become a force on the boards.
“She’s probably ending up with around 300 points scored this year,” Compton said. “She was our main scorer but we also had to ask her to do a lot more and help us in a lot of ways. We definitely need to develop some more players in the post who can help with some of that.”
The Lady Wildcats will lose just two seniors — two-year starter and second-leading scorer Shania Thomas, along with post player Taylor Phillips, who contributed some off the bench — so Compton said he is optimistic about the future.
Along with Hooks as a junior, starters Briana Bryson, Cerey Bradford and Kate Thompson are all slated to return as seniors next year along with a handful of other players who contributed a lot of minutes this season.
“We were fairly young this year and next year we’re going to have a huge senior class,” Compton said. “We’ve got a couple freshmen coming up who can really help us. So we look forward to it.”
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