In their third straight strip to the Georgia High School Association Class AAAA girls basketball Final Four, the Carver Tigers showed they continue to be favored to win the program’s first state championship.
The Tigers (31-0), No. 2 in the Class AAAA girls MaxPreps rankings, remained undefeated as they beat No. 3 Flowery Branch 74-70 Saturday in the semifinals at Fort Valley State University.
They will play in the state championship game 11 a.m. Friday at the Macon Coliseum against No. 4 Spalding, which beat No. 4 Luella 50-28 in the other semifinal.
Flowery Branch had upset No. 1. Henry County 57-50 in the quarterfinals.
“It feels great to be back in,” Carver coach Anson Hundley said, referring to the Tigers having lost their semifinal game last year to eventual champion Spalding 58-51. Now, they get a rematch in the final.
In 2016, the Tigers edged Cross Creek 60-56 in the semifinals but were nipped 68-67 for the title by in-town rival Columbus.
This season, Carver had won all but one of its games by double digits. The lone exception was a 48-46 victory Dec. 22 against Bishop O’Connell of Arlington, Va., at the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Saturday night, Flowery Branch provided another exception.
The Tigers led 34-29 at halftime and 53-44 at the end of the third quarter, but the Falcons wouldn’t let them pull away.
“They’re a really good team,” Hundley said. “They played really hard, but we just kept going and kept fighting. We played our style of basketball and found a way to win.”
That style continued to be up-tempo offense and full-court pressure defense.
“We tried to get them tired,” Hundley said.
The Tigers rose to the challenge, he emphasized, “because it just comes from the work they put in. They keep pushing hard.”
Carver’s statistics from Saturday night’s game weren’t available by deadline.
Mark Rice, 706-576-6272, @MarkRiceLE.