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LA’s Ballard lifts Crusaders to state title tilt with late 3

Laurens Academy’s Rylee Ballard (12) (file photo)

Rylee Ballard hit her fifth and final 3-pointer of the game in the waning seconds Thursday to lift the Laurens Academy girls basketball team into the SCISA Class 1A state championship game by way of a 44-41 victory over Wardlaw Academy in Columbia.

The Crusaders will play at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Sumter Civic Center. LA will face Cambridge Academy, an upset winner over Curtis Baptist, 36-29 Thursday.

Ballard scored a game-high 22 points, while Gracie Hall added 11 with three 3-pointers, and LA leading scorer on the season Olivia Huck finished with 9 points. Emily Suttles was the only other LA player to score, finishing with 2 points.

LA exploded out to a 21-3 lead in the first half, but Wardlaw battled back steadily to take a 39-37 lead late in the fourth quarter. Wardlaw outscored LA 34-19 in the second and third quarters.

Reagan Whitlock scored 15 points, and Summer Williams added 11 for the Patriots.

The Crusaders (20-9) retook the lead at 41-39, but Wardlaw came right back and tied it at 41-41 with six seconds left in the game to set up Ballard’s heroics.

LA defeated state finals opponent Cambridge three times this season, including twice this month. The Crusaders won 42-26 on Jan. 10, 36-31 on Feb. 3 and 42-33 in the Region 4-1A tournament.


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