Lovejoy girls basketball finishes mission with Class AAAAAA state championship

MACON — The Lovejoy Wildcats led from start to finish Friday night as they won the Class AAAAAA girls basketball state basketball championship by beating Sequoyah 54-38.

It was Lovejoy’s first state championship since winning the AAAAAA crown in 2018.

“It’s been a journey,” Lovejoy head coach Cedric King said of his team winning the state championship again. “I think you have to self-reflect; you have to go back and figure out what these kids can do and how to best maximize their talent. I felt like we had a plan coming into the season and our mission is win the last game. We don’t worry about anyone else; just win the last game. It’s about preparing for the last game, a mission completed. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Layla Hood led the Lovejoy (28-3) with 14 points and 16 rebounds.

“(Hood) is special,” King said. “Great job for her and a great job by the ladies.”

Bryanna Preston scored 13 while Bryana Hardy scored 11 and grabbed 11 rebounds. La’Nya Foster scored 8 and had 11 rebounds.

“I thought (Hardy) was the equalizer out there today for us,” King said.

Lovejoy started the game with a 6-1 run and with 3:40 remaining in the first quarter, took an 11-3 lead thanks to a Foster basket. It led 15-7 at the end of the first quarter.

Lovejoy led by 11 twice in the second quarter. With 3:39 remaining, Ayana Boyd scored to give the Wildcats a 20-9 lead and with 2:21 remaining, Preston made a free throw to make the score 21-10.

Lovejoy led 23-16 at halftime and 40-25 at the end of the third quarter.

“Hats off to (Sequoyah); they slowed us down,” King said. “They slowed us down better than anybody but you can expect that in a state championship game. They slowed us down; our defense was the answer.”

In the fourth quarter, Lovejoy led by as much as 20 (51-31 with about two minutes remaining).

“Once we got to the fourth quarter, we knew they couldn’t guard us,” King said. “All we needed to do was get to the fourth quarter and it was a game.”

Throughout the season, Lovejoy has been known for its high-powered offense but in Friday’s game, King said the team stepped things up on defense.

“I think our defense has been getting better and better as the year went on,” King said.

Lovejoy scored 19 points off turnovers.

Susanna Rogers led Sequoyah (24-8) with 10 points and 12 rebounds.

Lovejoy, the Region 4-AAAAAA champion, beat Glynn Academy 80-32 in the first round of the state tournament, Sprayberry 69-53 in the second round, River Ridge 71-59 in the quarterfinals and Rockdale County 71-56 in the semifinals.