Then the second half started.
After the teams returned from their locker rooms, it was all Miller Grove as the visiting Lady Wolverines advanced to the Class AAAAA state quarterfinals with a 51-38 victory Friday.
Allatoona was left to end its season with an 18-9 record and a Region 5AAAAA championship.
“No one wants to end on a loss, but if you do, you want it to be against (Miller Grove),” Allatoona coach Michael Taylor said. “I will go to battle with these girls any day of the week.”
Patience was on Allatoona’s side the entire first half. The Lady Buccaneers thwarted Miller Grove’s full-court pressure by moving the ball effectively until they could create an open shot attempt.
Most of their open shot attempts came from behind the 3-point line, where Alyssa Dobson and Jessica Finch combined to hit five 3s out of nine attempts. Allatoona scored eight unanswered points to end the first half and went into the locker room with a 20-14 lead.
Then, Miller Grove (23-5) made defensive adjustments by using a combination of a man zone and full-court pressure, and it rattled Allatoona almost the entire second half.
“We told the kids to come out with their hands up and apply pressure,” said Miller Grove coach Renee Breedlove, whose team advanced to meet Region 6AAAAA rival Tucker in the quarterfinals. “In the first half, we were giving them shots with our hands down.”
Miller Grove picked off Allatoona’s passes one by one once the third quarter started, and the Lady Wolverines embarked on a 16-0 third-quarter run to take command. The Lady Buccaneers had 15 turnovers in the third quarter alone after having just 10 in the first half.
Not only was Miller Grove scoring points off turnovers, it kept getting second- and third-chance opportunities. Eleven of Miller Grove’s 16 straight points came in the first 2:20 of the frame.
“They made a nice adjustment at the half by going to man pressure, and we didn’t expect it,” Taylor said. “We knew the full-court pressure was coming, but they did a good job changing up to man (pressure).”
Allatoona had such difficulty maintaining possession in the third quarter that it didn’t get its first shot attempt until Finch’s 3 with 2:15 left in the quarter stopped the bleeding.
Even after Miller Grove dominated the first 6 minutes of the third quarter, Allatoona was still very much in the game, only trailing by seven. Finch later cut it to four when she nailed another 3-pointer to make it 30-26.
Allatoona went into the fourth quarter trailing by five, but Miller Grove continued to force turnovers that turned into points, and its lead swelled to 11 points on Klarissa Weaver’s putback with about 5 minutes left to play.
The Lady Buccaneers were unable to close in at that point.
Tashi Thompson was Miller Grove’s lone double-figure scorer with 12 points. Chrystal Ezechukwu finished with nine, and Aniefiok Udofia added eight.
For Allatoona, Finch led with 13 points and Dobson added 11.