A day after Raven Johnson
and Ta'Niya Latson
dominated a semifinal win, the Westlake (Atlanta)
girls basketball team added a third monumental performer on Saturday. The result was a first GEICO Nationals title for the second-ranked Lions with a thorough and complete 70-50 championship game victory over Paul VI (Chantilly, Va.)
at Suncoast Credit Union Arena in Ft. Myers, Fla.
Latson, a 5-foot-9 junior guard coming off a 26-point performance Friday in a 64-54 win over Fremont (Plain City, Utah), had 31 points. South Carolina point guard Johnson added 17 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. She had 25 points 10 rebounds, nine assists and seven steals on Friday.
But it was the performance of Brianna Turnage
that turned this game into a rout. The 6-2 Virginia Tech-bound post had 11 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocks as the Lions, the four-time defending Georgia state champions, took command with a 17-4 in the second quarter to finish 22-0 on the season. They will undoubtedly be crowned MaxPreps National Champions.
Paul VI, which got 17 points from
, 14 from Bella Perkins
and 10 from Duke-bound Lee Volker
, finished 11-1. The ninth-ranked Panthers, the 14-time defending Virginia state champions, barely had a season due to COVID-19 restrictions and entered the tournament having been off since Feb. 9. They played toe-toe-toe with Westlake during an entertaining first quarter and trailed 20-18.
But from there, the backcourt duo of Latson and Johnson took over on the offensive end, while Turnage was a huge force on defense. The Panthers, coming off a 52-49 overtime win over top-ranked Lake Highland Prep (Fla.), managed two baskets in the second frame as Westlake led 37-22 at halftime.
"Those three girls (Johnson, Latson and Turnage) have been our leaders all year so they just did what they've always done," Westlake coach Hilda Hankerson told ESPN2 at halftime. "We needed to make some serious defensive adjustments (in the second quarter) and that's what we did."
Paul VI coach Scott Allen said at halftime his team simply needed to pick up its energy level, and told fans "to get their popcorn ready," for a second-half rally.
It never materialized, largely because the speed, quickness and shooting of Latson (9-of-16 from the field, 12-for-15 from the line) and Johnson. Turnage also made all five of her field goal tries.
The four-team, 2021 GEICO nationals field was considered the best in the 12-year history of the event. The four teams entered a combined 75-0 and all ranked among the top 11 in the MaxPreps Top 25. Westlake is the first team from Georgia to win the tournament.