CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. - Lester Galyon didn't sound like a coach who had just lost a basketball game on his home court against one of his biggest rivals.
The Gordon Lee High School girls' coach, having just witnessed his team rally several times only to fall short against Darlington, 74-71, has reason to be in a good mood. Following next week's Region 6-A tournament, the Lady Trojans will not have to play another private school.
Galyon wasn't pleased with the way his team was outmuscled inside by the Lady Tigers, who had a huge rebounding edge, but he likes the Lady Trojans' postseason prospects if they fix that issue.
"I feel good about our chances," he said. "I know once we get into our [public school] tournament we won't see any teams better than the ones in our region like Darlington and Southwest Atlanta Christian. But we have to do a better job on the boards. I was told they out-rebounded us by 30, and it's hard to beat a team when you give them three and four shots at a time."
Darlington (18-6, 10-2) parlayed the strong inside game of Terar Stewart (22 points, 13 rebounds) into a 38-34 halftime lead that could have been more if not for 15 first-half turnovers. A 9-2 run early in the third period, capped by a Stewart putback, propelled the Lady Tigers to a 50-39 lead, but Gordon Lee (19-6, 9-3) wouldn't go away.
"It seemed like we had 10-point leads five times, but every time we got a good lead they would hit some big shots," Darlington coach Josh Hembree said. "This is an incredible rivalry. We've got a lot or respect for Gordon Lee and Coach Galyon. It's always fun and it's always a challenge when we get together to play, because we know we're going to get their best and they know they're getting ours."
Gordon Lee's best was, as usual, senior guard Kassidy Blevins, who scored 34 points despite persistent leg cramps in the second half. She scored all but five of the Lady Trojans' 16 points in the third period, with her 3-pointer to end the quarter cutting the deficit to four.
Another Blevins bomb two minutes into the final period gave Gordon Lee a 57-56 edge, and the teams kept exchanging the lead over the next three minutes until a Stewart layup, a Bailey Brock short jumper and Maggie Beth Altha's steal and layup gave Darlington a 72-68 lead with 1:46 to play.
The Lady Trojans had several chances late, including two 3-point attempts that rimmed out, but when Rachel Simon blocked Katherine Chamber's 3-point try with 12 seconds to play, the game was over.
"I thought the girls did a good job of coming back," Galyon said. "We had two good looks with two of our better shooters, but they just didn't go in. Kassidy Blevins played like the warrior she is. She battled leg cramps, but she carried us anyway. We lost, but I still feel very good about this team."
Katie Barger addded 12 points, Katelyn Lee 11 and Chambers 10 for Gordon Lee, while Brock had 13, Atha 12, Sarah Manning 11 and Simon 10, all in the second half, for Darlington.