November 26, 2020

Lady Braves aiming for first Final Four since 1987

The Region 5-AA Champion Lady Braves will face off with the No. 1 team in the state Laney (Augusta) this week in the Elite-8 round of the GHSA Class AA State Playoffs after a thrilling 56-55 upset of the No. 3 ranked Dodge County Indians last week. Pictured above are (L-R Front): Ally Harris, Haley Bennett, Emily Iddins, and Ellie Googe (L-R Back): Marissa Garza, Alyssa Cosper, Sage Kelley, Hannah Sanders, Kimberly Harris, Alexis Nelms, and Tori Caldwell (Not pictured: Morgan Kay)

The Region 5-AA Champion Lady Braves will host the No. 1 team in the state Laney (Augusta) Tuesday night in Franklin. Pictured above are (L-R Front): Ally Harris, Haley Bennett, Emily Iddins, and Ellie Googe (L-R Back): Marissa Garza, Alyssa Cosper, Sage Kelley, Hannah Sanders, Kimberly Harris, Alexis Nelms, and Tori Caldwell (Not pictured: Morgan Kay)

(Franklin, GA) — Coach Helen Akins and the Lady Braves know they will face a difficult task when they take the court Tuesday night in the Class AA State Playoffs versus the No. 1 team in the state, but at least they will get to face that challenge in front of the home crowd at the friendly confines of Heard County High School.

The Wildcats bring a storied history into the game, having won a state title in Class AAA in 2015 and reaching the final four in eight of the last 10 seasons.

The Lady Braves will come into the game as big underdogs to the state’s No. 1 team, but with the luxury of having three seniors who understand just what it takes to win a state title at HHS.

Ally Harris, Hannah Sanders, and Alyssa Cosper were all a big part of the 2014 State Championship softball team.

The Brave Nation has played a huge factor thus far in the playoffs and Coach Helen Akins hopes for another boisterous home crowd Tuesday night.

“We are very thankful for the tremendous support we’ve seen over the past few weeks,” says Akins. “Whoever’s playing us this year needs to look out — it might be a blowout but they are about to get a fight.”

The Lady Braves have only reached the Final Four one time in school history and that came in 1987. That squad, led by coach Kathy Scott, lost to Clinch County 59-54 at Georgia Tech. Scott also led the Lady Braves to the quarterfinals in 1984.

Coach Mason Alford led the girls to the quarterfinals three straight times from 1961-1963.

Recent quarterfinal appearances include 2012 under Valeree Williams and just last year under coach Akins with most of the same girls from that team still in the current starting line-up.

The Elite 8 contest will tip off at 6:00 PM Tuesday night in the HHS gym, but fans are encouraged to arrive early for the first ever quarterfinal game to be hosted in Franklin. See game preview below for more information on the big game.

Laney Wildcats @ Heard Co. Lady Braves 

Junior Lady Brave Alexis Nelms (Photo: Melanie Boyd/Times-Georgian)

WHEN: Tuesday Night, February 28 (6:00 PM TIP-OFF)

WHERE: Heard High School Gym, 545 Main Street, Franklin, GA

RECORDS: Wildcats (28-1, 14-0 in Region 4-AA), Lady Braves (22-6, 9-2 in Region 5-AA)

COACHES: Wildcats – Otis Smart, Lady Braves – Helen Akins

SEEDINGS: The Wildcats arrive as the No. 1 seed in Region 4-AA after defeating Swainsboro 70-44 in in the first round and Douglas 78-61 in the Sweet 16. The Lady Braves come in as the No. 1 seed in Region 5-AA after defeating Pepperell 42-40 in OT during the first round and Dodge County 56-55 in the Sweet 16.

RANKINGS: Wildcats (No. 1 in Class AA AJC/ScoreAtlanta poll), Lady Braves (No. 10 in Class AA AJC/ScoreAtlanta poll)

HISTORY: This is the first playoff meeting between the two teams

COLORS: Wildcats (Red/Gray), Lady Braves (Maroon/Gray)

PLAYOFF HISTORY: Since 1984, the Wildcats have won one state championship in Class AAA in 2015, finished as State Runner-Ups twice (2013, 1995), and reached the Final Four 13 times. The Lady Braves have reached the state playoffs all three seasons under coach Helen Akins and are looking to reach the Final Four for the first time since 1987.

SENIORS: Wildcats 3, Lady Braves 4

WINNER: Winner will advance to meet the winner of Bryan County/Model Saturday, March 4 at 2:00 PM at Georgia College in Milledgeville.

ADMISSION: $7 at the gate as determined by the GHSA

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