“They’ve counted us out all season, they didn’t expect us to win,” said Astros head coach Alanna Allen after beating Early County to advance to the state championship.
“They said we would lose in the sweet sixteen,” said Astros senior guard Ashley McKee at practice the day before the championship game.
Well the Astros proved the predictors or as they would say, “Haters” as the soundly defeated the Patriots of Southwest Macon 56-46.
All season long, the Astros used being counted out to defend their state title as bulletin board material. Close calls that almost ended their state title run against Rabun County and Washington County proved to be a learning experience and create a tighter bond that was already tight enough.
As tipoff began, the Patriots fanbase welcomed them to Macon as the crowd noise rocked the Macon Coliseum.
The first quarter proved to be a heavyweight match between both teams as the Patriots lead 13-12 at the end of the first quarter.
As the second quarter began, the Astros began to show their dominance and talent, specifically senior guard Kayla Sessberry.
Sesberry found her rhythm, knocking down three straight shots giving the Astros a six point lead heading into halftime. She led all scorers with 18 points.
The Astros stretched their lead in the third quarter, going up by 13 and holding the Patriots to 21.4 percent shooting overall. The Coliseum was quiet and Patriots fans hoped their team could find a spark.
Due to Astros guards Sesberry, Mckee and Destiny McKee being in foul trouble, the Astros had to utilize the bench depth they had giving guards Yolanie Johnson and Zhaniya Moreland extensive playing time.
The Patriots managed to cut the Astros lead to four at 50-46. If the Astros did not answer, they would be in trouble as Patriots fans made it a loud and tough environment for players to communicate with each other.
With less than three minutes to go in the game, Allen substituted Sesberry for Johnson to deal with the Patriots full court pressure.
This was all the Astros needed as Sesberry delivered. This time, getting a steal from Patriots guard Jakhyla Johnson to give the Astros a much needed basket and hush the Patriot fans.
Another defensive play, this time by junior guard Ashuntee Weems, turned into another bucket for Sesberry giving the Astros a 54-46 lead with 1:36 left in the fourth.
A fastbreak layup by Sesberry assisted by Weems proved to be the nail in the coffin as Sesberry erupted in celebration as she knew seconds separated her from her second straight state title.
As the Astros dribbled and passed the ball around, players and fan began celebrating as they realized another state title was coming to the westside of Atlanta.
“God is truly awesome and we just remained faithful,” said a humble Allen after winning the state title.
“There were a lot of people that doubted us all season but we used that as motivation. We were ranked number one and they predicted us to lose, and that’s fine, we used that as motivation every single [game]. That’s why we played tough competition early on to get ready for games like this.”
Sesberry finished her last game of her career with 25 points, seven rebounds and two assists.
“I feel joy and relief,” said Sesberry. “I know they feel disappointment for doubting us but man it feels so great to help lead my team to the state championship. It feels so good to put in a strong role on the court this time.”
Junior guard Ashuntee Weems who was vital in leading the Astros to the state championship had this to say after the game.
“It really feels great knowing all of the hard work you put in and everything that happen before and up until this game,” said Weems.
She finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists.