By MICHAEL ALEXANDER, Staff Photographer | Published March 18, 2016
ATHENS—Fifth-year head coach Dodd Rentz and the Lady Rams of Monsignor Donovan High School won the school’s first Georgia Independent School Association state basketball championship in a 45-34 victory over Crisp Academy of Cordele at Mercer University, Macon, on March 5.
Monsignor Donovan led 21-18 at halftime. They extended the lead to 33-27 at the end of the third period. Never feeling comfortable with any lead until the game’s waning minutes, once Crisp was forced to foul Monsignor Donovan took full advantage. Senior forward Jenna Bradberry went nine for 11 from the free throw line in the fourth period, and she finished with 24 points.
Injuries plagued the team off and on throughout the season, and when senior point guard Sarah Quinlan broke her left wrist in the quarterfinal game, the timing could not have been worse. But in a dauntless display of athleticism, Quinlan played in the final two games. She had 11 points and eight assists in the semifinals and nine points and seven assists in the finals.
“For Sarah to be able to play and lead us with a broken wrist was really amazing,” said Rentz. “She was not even close to 100 percent, but she was very effective, and I am really happy for her and for our kids that she was able to get through it successfully.”
Last year’s team reached the state finals but lost to Valdosta’s Georgia Christian School by three points. This year’s team set out to write a different script. In addition to winning the Class AA state championship, they also won their first 4-AA region championship in February, defeating Macon’s Windsor Academy 44-38.
“I knew we had a good team from the beginning, but I think the region championship game is the one where I began to think there might be something really special about this bunch,” said Rentz.
He also acknowledged the contributions from players like Anna Moore, the team’s second leading scorer, and 3-point specialist, Elly Tranovich, one of the team’s leading rebounders, Julia Lopez, Omeka Bhatia and Avery Burns. He felt the team’s role players were much more effective in pressure situations on the big stage this year, and he attributed it to hard work and their post-season experience last year.
Monsignor Donovan did not lose a game after Jan. 5, a two-month run. The team won all four state tournament games by double figures, finishing the season with a 22-4 record.
“I am most proud of the way these girls played for one another and with one another, no matter what the sacrifice,” said Rentz. “This season was much more of a grind even than most basketball seasons. They just kept showing up, doing their job, and winning.”