Holy Spirit saved its best for the last four minutes of AHSAA Class 3A Central Regional girls final.
The Titans closed out the fourth quarter on a 12-2 run to beat Lanett, 51-41, Wednesday morning at Alabama State’s Acadome.
“When I called that timeout, they got into their momentum and started playing at their game pace,” Holy Spirit coach Char-Lette Jones-Pruitt said. “That was big for us.”
Holy Spirit advanced to next week’s Final Four in Birmingham looking to win the school’s first state title in girls basketball.
“This is everything to me,” said Holy Spirit senior Aeriel Winn, the tournament MVP. “Being a senior, I just want to go to Birmingham and get this championship for my team. I’ve wanted it since seventh grade and now it’s finally happening. It’s unbelievable.”
Winn and Victoria Lavender accounted for 10 of those final 12 points to put away the Panthers (16-13). Lavender broke the tie with a basket and had a 3-point play to give the Titans (24-2) a 49-41 lead.
“She fought hard for me down low,” Jones-Pruitt said. “So when I put her out on the top (defensively), I was like, ‘here’s your chance. Do what you’ve been doing.’ That gave her her moment right there.”
Lavender scored a team-high 16 points while Winn posted a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds. The Titans shot 50 percent in the second half.
“I just want to congratulate my girls,” Jones-Pruitt said. “I’m proud of them. They kept up the good fight.”
Ataiya Bridges scored a game-high 19 points to lead Lanett, but made an uncharacteristic turnover at an unfortunate time for the Panthers. The stellar sophomore point guard stole the ball and was in the clear to cut Holy Spirit’s lead to one, but was called for a carry right before she was about to score.
Down 44-41, the Panthers didn’t score for the remainder of the game. Bridges later fouled out and was visibly upset after on the bench.
“I told her she had a good ball game,” Lanett coach Jennifer Norris said. “Hold your head up. Don’t listen to what anybody says. We have a lot of people; they want to coach from the stands.
“She carries the whole team on her shoulders and she feels like if we win a ball game, it’s a whole team effort. If we lose, she feels like it’s all on her.”