The Holy Innocents’ Golden Bear girls basketball team – after dropping the last two state finals to the Wesleyan Wolves and three of the last four – got revenge and then some Wednesday afternoon in Macon, routing the rivals 75-48.
The title marks the third girls hoops state championship in school history – the first back in 1999 and the last in 2016 under Coach Tony Watkins. This year’s trophy comes home despite a girls team that had no seniors on its roster. Nichole Dixon’s bunch finished the year at 26-7.
"Our team loved each other well and was committed to the success of the team first,” Coach Dixon summarized. “They didn’t care who got the credit, they just wanted to see the team be successful. Our game schedule was the toughest in Georgia, and it made us battle-tested. We grew mentally, physically, and emotionally this year.”
Wesleyan never led in this one as Marya Hudgins hit a three to open the game. Up 7-6 midway through the first period, the Bears then went on an 18-5 run that lasted deep into the second stanza and never looked back.
Nixon’s bunch led 16-11 after the first eight minutes, largely behind Jillian Hollingshead’s eight points and a Jada Farrell three to go with Hudgins’s. Hollingshead hit nine of her first 11 shots and finished the night with 25 points.
In the second period, it was Cierra Foster who kept the Bears’ spark going. The sophomore scored six points while passing off for more baskets and picking up some long rebounds to boot. The Wolves sliced a bit into the Bear lead late into the frame with a field goal and a three, but Logan Jackson hit an inside bucket to put HIES up 27-18 at the break.
Hollingshead opened the second half erasing any doubt of a Wesleyan comeback, scoring two early buckets and scoring 13 in the quarter as the Bears opened up a 17-point lead going into the final eight minutes. Farrell came up big in the last period, netting 13 of her 15 points on the day.
Looking at the stat sheet - besides Hollingshead and Farrell's point production - Hudgins scored 12, all on 3-pointers, Foster finished with eight, Rachel Suttle contributed seven and Logan Jackson and Charlsie Birkel both netted four. Suttle also grabbed 11 rebounds, Hollingshead 10 and Foster passed off for eight assists.
“Yes, we won a state championship which is incredible difficult to do,” Dixon continued. “However, what I will forever remember about this team, is the way they bought in to a team first mentality. They learned the power of faith, hope, and love. As I coached from the sidelines in our state championship on Wednesday, I couldn’t help but notice how we looked like poetry in motion by the middle of the 2nd quarter. We weren’t playing against the other team, we were playing for each other. Our girls shined like stars they were created to be. I am just grateful to be their coach.”
The margin of victory outdid the '99 title team that outscored Buford 71-46, in a game also played in Macon.
Congrats to Coach Dixon, her staff, the players, and all involved in what was one of the best Lady Bear hoops seasons ever. BEARS!