GAINESVILLE — The region championship years are stenciled in paint on the hallway outside the Dacula girls basketball team’s locker room.
The list, despite the high school’s advanced age, is brief — 1938, 1939, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1963 and 1970. Fifty years after the last region title on the wall, the Falcons get to add another one.
Dacula defeated rival and defending state champion Lanier for the fourth time this season Monday night at Gainesville, pulling out a 46-42 overtime victory for the Region 8-AAAAAA Tournament championship.
“This is a blessing,” Dacula senior Nyla Rose Moore said. “We haven’t done this in 50 years. Us being seniors, we just made history. I couldn’t even cry. I’m so happy.”
Moore made 5 of 6 free throws in the fourth quarter and overtime to help nail down the breakthrough championship. Her final two free throws with 10.7 seconds left in OT extended the lead to 45-42, forcing Lanier into a 3-pointer in an attempt to tie. It was well off the mark and a single free throw from Maddie Ananthasane with 3.1 seconds left finished it off.
Both teams survived a war of attrition as their interior players were plagued with foul issues throughout the game. Dacula’s Lazaria Spearman and teammate Keyanna Gibbs fouled out in OT, as did Lanier’s Christabel Ezumah and Lizzie Campbell.
It was the fourth meeting between the two programs this season. Dacula won 51-47 in December at an out-of-state tournament and again 45-42 on its home court on Jan. 7. Lanier won 46-27 on Jan. 24 in a game that Dacula played without Spearman.
That loss is the only one in the last 15 games for Dacula, which takes a 24-3 record and a No. 1 seed into the state tournament. Lanier falls to 17-10.
“We were just trying to hang on (at the end),” Dacula girls coach Jason Adams said. “We’re banged up. (Spearman’s) not 100 percent. Nyla’s not 100 percent. Credit to them. They’re tough. They’re tough defensively. Their kids play hard and they’re well-coached. I’m just excited to get the first region championship in 50 years. I’m super proud of them.”
The score remained tight from beginning to end, and Dacula nearly pulled out a win in regulation after Moore made two free throws with 1:18 left for a 38-35 lead. But Lanier’s Zuriyah Davis, the region’s co-player of the year with Spearman, made a 3-pointer with a minute left to tie the score.
Dacula held for a final shot, but a long 3-pointer from Haneefat Adanijo missed as time expired. Adanijo scored seven points, but her best work was on defense against Davis, who finished with 13 points, six rebounds and three assists.
“(Adanijo) answered the challenge defensively,” Adams said.
Overtime was a grind with both teams losing their frontcourt starters to fouls. Gibbs was first, followed by Ezumah (eight points, 12 rebounds). Spearman (14 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks) fouled out with 32 seconds left in OT on a drive by Davis, who missed both free throws in a tie game.
Dacula missed a shot on the ensuing possession, but Adanijo grabbed the air ball and was fouled by Campbell (eight points) with 15.5 seconds left. She made the first free throw for a 43-42 lead, and Lanier couldn’t grab the rebound when she missed her second, giving the Falcons the ball back.
Lanier had to foul Moore with 10.7 seconds left and she calmly made both, staring into the rowdy Lanier student section behind the goal.
“Hitting big free throws at the end was important,” Adams said. “Nyla sticking those in at the end as a senior. I’m so happy for her.”
Jin Sileo scored 11 for the Falcons, who held Lanier to four points in OT.
“We relied on our defense all year long and really it was about getting stops and making sure we get a good look,” Adams said of OT. “We were able to get to the free throw line. We knew they had foul trouble just like we did.”
Morgan Manley also scored eight points for the Longhorns, who will be a No. 2 seed in the state playoffs.