In a matchup of size versus shooting, the Pirates brought both to their Class 6A state quarterfinal game Tuesday at Brunswick Square Garden.
Shania Jones splashed a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help the Brunswick High girls rally in the fourth quarter and pull away from Sequoyah for a 59-47 victory that secures the program a spot in the Final 4 for the first time since 2015.
“First of all, we just thank God,” said Brunswick girls head coach Maria Mangram. “We just thank God for giving us the ability, the knowledge and everything to do what we needed to do to be successful this year. Our motto is: ‘All for one, and one for all,’ and we have just used that as our push all year. I’m just so excited for the girls. I don’t really have a lot of words; I’m just happy for them.”
While the Pirates’ biggest contributors over the past two seasons have been posts Shamya Flanders and Shané Jackson, the team has found its strength in numbers with nine players averaging between 3.5 to Flanders’ team-leading 11.8 points per game.
With teams keying on Brunswick’s starting bigs this postseason, the team has needed other players to step up, and they obliged once again in the Elite 8.
Jones scored a game-high 14 points for the Pirates — nine coming in the fourth quarter as Brunswick finally pulled away from a scrappy Sequoyah.
The teams went back-and-forth over the first three quarters with neither team taking more than a four-point lead at any point in the contest until Shanyece Quick’s basket staked the Pirates to a 47-42 advantage with five minutes remaining in the fourth.
Until that point, the undersized Chiefs had hung in the game by packing the paint in its 2-3 zone and forcing the Pirates to beat them from the perimeter.
Early on, the game turned into a 3-point contest, which should have greatly favored the visitors. Sequoyah entered the matchup with 210 makes from 3 on 711 attempts, good for 30 percent. Brunswick, on the other hand, was just 48-for-254 (19 percent) on shots from distance.
Jermiyah “Coco” Ramsey shot 101 3-pointers for the Pirates entering the game, which was nearly 60 more than her closest teammate. Four different Chiefs exceeded that volume from 3 on the season.
And yet, Brunswick finished the game with seven makes from long distance to just eight for Sequoyah, practically erasing its opponent’s greatest equalizer.
With the Chiefs working to keep the ball out of the hands of Flanders and Jackson, Dariana Johnson knocked down a pair of corner 3s in the first quarter to give the Pirates an early 8-5 lead, and after going down 14-10, De’Nya Coleman splashed another 3 to draw BHS back to within one entering the second.
The teams proceeded to trade baskets in the second quarter, which featured seven lead changes as Brunswick continued to generate most of its offense from the perimeter, including 3s from Jones and Ramsey.
Though Brunswick’s advantage was just 30-26 headed into the locker rooms, how the team took the lead was just as important. Flanders and Jackson, were held scoreless in the first and second quarters, respectively, and the two combined for just nine points in the first half. Meanwhile guards Jones, Johnson and Ramsey had combined for 16 with four made 3-pointers between them.
Sequoyah had to respect Brunswick’s shooting in the second half, and that created just enough space for the Pirates’ bigs to go to work.
Jackson scored seven of the Pirates’ eight points in the third quarter to keep the team in the contest during a third quarter that saw the Chiefs make one final push to go up 39-38 headed into the final period, finishing with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
“They packed the paint, and tonight our guards were able to step up and hit some shots, which let our post players get a little wiggle room,” Mangram said. “That made a difference. We were finally able to feed our bigs down the stretch.”
Following a Sequoyah free throw to open the fourth, Jones knocked down another 3-pointer to give Brunswick a one-point lead, and the Pirates would never relinquish it.
After getting a steal near midcourt on the ensuing possession, Brunswick went up 43-40 on a layup from Quick. Elle Blatchford, a Southern Miss commit, banked a jumper off the glass to draw Sequoyah back to within one before Flanders and Quick responded with back-to-back baskets to open up a five-point cushion.
The Pirates pushed the lead to seven a few minutes later before Blatchford knocked down a 3 to whittle the Chiefs’ deficit down to four, but after a couple scoreless possessions from both teams, Sequoyah began fouling with just under two minutes to play.
Brunswick made 9-of-12 free throws in the fourth quarter to put the game away. The Pirates also only turned the ball over 13 times after 29 turnovers the previous round.
“Oh my goodness,” Mangram said with exasperation. “We can breathe a little bit, so we can have a few more days to prepare for Saturday, but man, these girls have worked so hard. They’ve been grinding all year, and I’m just so proud of them.
“It’s just a special group. They’re a special group of kids.”
With the Final 4 and championship games held in a neutral site, Tuesday’s contest was Brunswick’s last game at home, where the team finished 14-1 on the season.
A lively crowd was in attendance to cheer BHS on to victory before it travels to Carrollton to play its semifinal game against Lovejoy at the University of West Georgia at 2 p.m. Saturday.
“The city definitely came out,” Mangram said. “We posted on our Twitter page, and on our own personal pages on Facebook. I kind of asked if the city would come out and wear your blue. At the end of the day, we’re all one. We all come from the same place.
“I think tonight everybody came and was rooting for us, and we appreciate that.”