Flying high! AC Flora girls top Ridge View, earn trip to first basketball title game

With a chance to make school history on the line, Terriana Gray was ready for the moment.

The AC Flora senior hit two free throws to help clinch the Falcons’ 47-42 win over Ridge View in the Class 4A girls semifinals Wednesday at the Florence Center.

AC Flora will play Riverside for the state championship at 6 p.m. Saturday. It will be both teams first championship appearance.

“I took my time and was confident in myself. I’m a good free-throw shooter,” said Gray, the team’s top free-throw shooter at 69%. “I knew I was going to make both.”

Gray, the team’s top scorer and all-state selection, led the way with 13 points but none bigger than her free throws with 10.7 seconds left. The Falcons were leading 44-42 at the time and she calmly knocked down the two shots.

AC Flora added another free throw seconds later and waited for the final seconds to tick off before Gray jumped into Flora coach Jacob Thompson’s arms as the final buzzer sounded and the celebration began.

“TG and I have a very special bond,” Thompson said. “I know people see us talking, yelling at each other. But it is because she hates to lose. She is one of those special kids and Alabama A&M is getting a great one.

“Now the next step is to figure out a way to beat Riverside. They looked good today but we are looking forward to the challenge.”

This was the second straight year AC Flora made it to the semifinals.The Falcons lost to Westwood, 52-37 last year and returned most of the key contributors from last year’s squad.

Thompson thought that experience helped them against the Blazers.

“They knew everything about this. They knew where the locker room was and things like that,” Thompson said. “They had great leadership and it showed tonight.”

This was the third meeting of the season between the Region 5-4A teams. Ridge View won both of the regular-season games, 45-43 and 64-47.

AC Flora jumped out to a 14-8 lead before the Blazers went on a 11-0 run to go on top, 19-14. The Falcons closed the half, by scoring eight of the final 10 points capped off by Jazmyne McDonald-Craft’s baseline jumper to lead 22-11 at halftime.

The Falcons led 40-32 early in the fourth quarter on Jazmine McDonald-Craft’s jumper. McDonald-Craft finished with nine points in the game. Skylar McCray added eight, coming early in the third quarter.

The Blazers, who were making their first semifinal appearance in school history, rallied and Simone Johnson’s layup cut the lead to 44-42 with 1:16 left. Ridge View had three opportunities to take the lead and missed an open 3-pointer and then a layup with 30 seconds left.

Ridge View finishes the season at 21-9.

“Sometimes the basketball gods are funny,” Ridge View coach Terrence Gibson said. “The ball rolls in and out, you get a little nervous. Turnovers hurt us, missed shots hurt us. Sometimes that is the way basketball rolls.”

Destiny Drakeford led RV with 12 points.

ACF: Terriana Gray 13, McDonald-Craft 9,McCray 8, Mickens 6,Mason 5, Delaney 4, Curnell 2. RV: Destiny Drakeford 12, Banks 8, Johnson 7, Carter 6, English 4, Bailey 3, Harvey 2