Kayla Wilson’s three-pointer with 1:30 left in the first quarter gave Marietta their first lead of the game at 10-9, an advantage they wouldn’t relinquish for the remainder on the contest.
“We hit shots when we needed them, we played good defense when we needed it and made free throws when we needed to,” said Marietta head coach Ken Sprague. “We started hitting (outside) shots early too, and that helps a lot.”
The win puts the Lady Blue Devils in the Class AAAAAA state quarterfinals for the first time since finishing the 2009 season as a state runner-up. Marietta will travel to Lowndes — the No. 1 seed form Region 1AAAAAA — later this week.
“These girls haven’t been to the Elite Eight before, but (Marietta basketball) is a program that has been (to the Elite Eight) a number of times,” Sprague said. “We’re going to go down there and do what we do, we’re going to play tough defense and hopefully hit enough shots to get a win.”
Kayla Wilson, who finished the game with 12 points and three 3-point baskets, hit another 3 at the first-quarter buzzer to put Marietta up 15-11.
With Kayla Wilson having the hot hand through the first 8 minutes, it was Asia Blu Wilson that took over in the second quarter. The sophomore scored had 12 of her game-high 17 points in the quarter, including six straight points in the final 90 seconds of the half — putting Marietta up 31-24 at halftime.
Marietta stretched the lead to 45-29 early in the fourth quarter following a pair of Jacky Jones free throws.
But Tift County, who used 26 made free throws (on 43 attempts) to fuel their offense, whittled the Marietta lead down to 51-45 with 1:18 to play in the game.
Marietta guard Tatiana Foster would ice game in the final minute, going 4-for-4 from the free-throw line to seal the victory.
Kayla Wilson and Jones finished the night with 12 points each for Marietta. Deaja Morton added seven points off the bench and Foster finished with five.
Tift County was led by Alexis Johnson’s 16 points, freshman point guard Audrey McElhaney added 10.