BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Central-Tuscaloosa used a quick defense to build 18-point lead by halftime and then had relay on some clutch free-throw shooting in the final minute to claim a 68-65 victory over Madison Academy in the Class 5A girls state basketball finals Saturday morning.
Junior point guard Quintasia Leatherwood of Central (28-3) sparked the fast start with her precision passing, outside shooting and floor leadership. However, Central Coach Michael Rivers said he warned his players at the half that great teams claw back. He was right.
Madison Academy (28-8), the Class 4A state champs in 2017 and 2018, finally found its range outside with Libby Privett and Mary Katherine Sanders nailing threes, Destinee McGhee and Jasmine Gracie scoring inside as Coach Allissa Flowers’ Mustangs closed the gap to four with 1:56 to play.
Central’s Sakyia White sank two free throws and Conajah Jones sank four to stretch the lead back to six with 22 seconds remaining. That margin would be needed at the end. With three seconds left, Madison Academy’s Privett sank a shot from just in front of the Central bench some 55 feet away and nailed her final trey at the buzzer to cut the lead to three.
Leatherwood had 18 points, seven assists, five rebounds, two treys and was 4-of-5 at the foul line to earn Class 5A state tourney MVP honors. White finished with 21 points before fouling out in the final period. She had eight rebounds, two blocked shots and made 7-of-8 free throws attempted. Jones had 19 points and was 5-of-6 at the foul line and Mackenzie Mahone scored 10 points with 4-of-5 at the foul line.
The Falcons finished 20-of-28 and made 11 in the fourth quarter. Madison Academy outscored Central 31-17 in the final period.
Privett led the Mustangs with 17 points, including five treys. Jaden Langford and Gracie had 12 points each, and McGhee had nine points. Gracie had 13 rebounds and McGhee had eight. Langford dished out five assists.
The state championship was the first for Central since 1996 and the fourth overall. It was the first state crown coached by Rivers. Madison Academy has won three state titles.
The Class 5A All-Tourney Team included: Quintasia Leatherwood, Central-Tuscaloosa (MVP); Conajah Jones, Central-Tuscaloosa; Sakyia White, Central-Tuscaloosa; Destinee McGhee, Madison Academy; Jasmine Gracie, Madison Academy; and Jaden Langford, Madison Academy.