By Doug Gorman
The Union Grove Lady Wolverines' dream of making it to the state basketball tournament for the first time in school history ended Monday afternoon with its 44-30 loss to Fayette County in the first round of the Region 4-AAAAA tournament at Mundy's Mill High School.
Still, first-year head coach A.C. McCullers was optimistic about the Lady Wolverines' future.
"We failed to make it to the state tournament, which was our goal, but we are young and this program has come along way," he said.
McCullers, who went 535-149 during his 25-year career at Morrow, including four state titles, also had a stint as head coach at Clayton State before deciding to come back to the high school game when he took over the Union Grove program this season.
The veteran coach produced the first winning season in school history as the Lady Wolverines ended the season with a 13-12 record.
For a time Monday against Fayette County it appeared Union Grove was going to add to its win total.
The Lady Wolverines led 12-8 at the end of the first quarter and 17-13 at the break before hitting a shooting slump in the final two quarters.
Fayette County outscored Union Grove 21-11 in the second half to advance to the second round of the tournament on Wednesday.
The Lady Tigers face top-seed Newnan in a 7:30 tip-off.
Kate Larson and Kendra Lee scored eight points each to pace Union Grove.
Eboni Baitey scored 13 points to lead Fayette County to the win.
The lead changed hands four times in the first eight minutes of the game, before Union Grove jumped out to its four point lead heading into the second quarter.
After Larson hit her second 3-point shot to tie the game a 6-all, Elizabeth Hawkins added a basket to push the Lady Wolverines out front 8-6. Baitey, who scored all eight Lady Tigers' points in the first quarter, added her fourth basket of the contest to tie the game at 8-all.
Baskets by Lee and Jamilah Sharp gave the Lady Wolverines a 12-8 lead heading into the second quarter.
Union Grove opened the second quarter by playing some of its best basketball of the game. Lee's basket midway through the quarter capped a 7-0 run and gave the Lady Wolverines a 15-8 lead.
The Lady Tigers fought back and cut the lead to 17-13 at the break.
Fayette County seized the momentum in the third quarter after opening the second half with a 7-1 run. A basket by Staci Pugh gave the Lady Tigers their first lead since the first quarter at 20-18. A basket by Tara Leatherwood tied the game at 20-all, but Union Grove never could retake the lead, and when Ashley Jones scored, Fayette County never trailed again.
"You have to be able to score to win, and we just didn't shoot the ball well in the second half," said McCullers. "We are young and that is something we will work on."