SUGAR HILL — A gutsy freshman ended the defending state champion’s season in shocking fashion.
Elle Blatchford hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key as time expired and Sequoyah shocked Lanier 47-46 in the first round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs. After a Lanier offensive foul gave Sequoyah the ball back with five seconds left, Blatchford took an inbounds pass and after two dribbles to create space pulled up from about a foot behind the three-point arc and drained the long jumper.
The third-seeded Chiefs will now travel to Brunswick on Wednesday for a 6 p.m. tip-off with Region 2 champion Glynn Academy in the Sweet 16 of the state tournament.
Lanier, which a year ago routed Sequoyah in the second round on its way to the AAAAAA state title, didn’t trail until Blatchford’s shot.
“We were trying to go to (Susanna Rogers), but it wasn’t open,” said Blatchford. “I just took the opportunity.”
Blatchford closed the third with a tough lay-up that got the visitors to within 36-32 heading into the final period. Lanier built a fourth quarter lead as large as 42-36 on a Christabel Ezumah bucket at the 4:55 mark. Sequoyah (19-10) scored the next five points, including a corner 3-pointer by Kayli Hamby – the sophomore’s only points of the second half – and it was 42-41 with about four minutes to play.
Lanier (17-11) guard Zuriyah Davis, who led all scorers with 18 points, hit a tough shot with 3:20 to go that made it 44-41, then a steal and lay-in from her backcourt mate, Morgan Manley (14 points), made it 46-41. That would turn out to be the last points of Lanier’s season.
“We were just happy,” Blatchford said of the mood in the winning locker room. “It’s been, not a tough year, but we played as a team (all year).”
Amy Singh hit a four-footer to make it 46-43 and a minute later, A’ryn Jackson’s 1-of-2 trip to the free-throw line pulled the Canton school to within a possession at 46-44 with 1:14 left. Lanier’s 8-0 run, highlighted by a pair of 3-pointers from Manley, put the hosts in front 19-11 at the 5:50 mark of the second quarter.
Sequoyah got a spark from Blatchford, who had a steal and a tough lay-up that turned into a three-point play and it was 19-16 at the 4:52 mark. The Chiefs pulled to within 22-21 on a nice runner from Jackson with a little less than two minutes to go until halftime. Lanier’s Karina Lopez hit a corner three to help build a 25-21 lead at the break.
It was a tight opening quarter with three ties, though Lanier never fell behind and built a 14-11 lead through one on the last of Manley’s threes with 15 seconds left.
Sequoyah’s trapping defense at midcourt led to a number of steals, including a pair that led to lay ups at the other end and it was an 11-11 game with just over two minutes to go in the first. Sequoyah went nearly five minutes without a point before Deja Rakestraw’s baseline jumper ended the drought at the 5:33 mark of the second.