DAWSON -- Randolph-Clay is back. Oh, and Terrell County -- they're still here, too.
The Red Devils ran out to a 14-point lead in the third quarter Saturday only to see it disappear into thin air in the Greenwave's house as Terrell County pulled out a 77-71 win in what could be a region title preview.
But it's still early. And as Randolph-Clay learned Saturday in the region opener for both teams, winning early doesn't mean a whole lot.
Terrell County (2-0, 1-0 Region 1-A) scored 31 points in the third quarter, after being held to just 29 in the first half, and got a game-high 28 points from senior point guard Terel Hall to claim the early lead in the region race.
"We picked it up the second half," Greenwave head coach John Davis said. "The momentum shifted. We made (Randolph-Clay) pick their game up and they turned the ball over."
The Red Devils roared out to a 38-27 lead at halftime and built their largest lead of the game, 52-38, on Alkawan Sullivan's jumper with 5:01 left in the third quarter. And then the turnovers came -- eight in the third quarter after the Red Devils (3-2, 0-1 Region 1-A) only had three in the first half.
"We beat ourselves," R-C first-year head coach Oglesby Jackson said. "We let them back in. We're almost there with Randolph-Clay ball, but Randolph-Clay ball is four quarters. We've just got to put it together."
Popcorn was thrown onto the court. Jackson's towel went flying. And Terrell County closed out the third quarter on a 16-2 run to take a 60-57 lead after Brian Browner buried a three with two seconds left in the quarter.
"Once they got the momentum, the basket started getting bigger and bigger," Jackson said. "(Terrell County is) a good team. They've been here before and they've got good leadership."
The Greenwave hit just 1-of-7 three-point attempts in the first half and came out cold, while Randolph-Clay used its size advantage inside to take control.
"Rivalry, butterflies," Davis said of his team's cold start. "They came out the second half and relaxed."
Terrell County built a four-point lead in the fourth quarter, but saw the Red Devils pull within 70-69 on Tim Stringer's tip-in with 1:22 left to play. Hall answered with two free throws and Dekoven Ware hit a layup and one-of-two free throws to ice it in the final 30 seconds.
"We've got to learn how to close the game," said R-C senior Cardaryle Curry, who led the Red Devils with 21 points. "We got the big head. We've got to learn to keep our composure."
Curry was one of five R-C players to score in double figures. Shaquille Nunnally scored 10 points and had 10 rebounds. Sullivan scored 12, Stringer had 11 and Malcolm Jones finished with 10.
Hall and his dribble-drive penetration ate the Red Devils alive in the second half. Along with his 28 points, Hall also had eight assists, five rebounds and two steals.
"He's too quick," Terrell County senior Charles Brown said of Hall. "The man is fast."
Markez Dotson added 11 points for Terrell. Ware had 18 points and 10 rebounds, battling inside despite being surrounded by taller post players. Ware said the Greenwave aren't concerned with the nightly size disadvantage and Davis knows they can still win without height.
"The team we had in 2005 that went to the Final Four was this size," Davis said. "It can be done."
After back-to-back losses to Class AAAA Bainbridge and Terrell County, Randolph-Clay will try to rebound Tuesday at home against Pelham. The Red Devils, who won six state titles and had a 90-game winning streak under former head coach Joe Williams, haven't returned to that form yet, but they're definitely closer after missing the playoffs the last two seasons.
"They're good," Hall said of the renewed rivalry with Randolph-Clay. "They brought it."
Curry just wishes they'd brought more. And vowed they would.
"We're back," Curry proclaimed, knowing the Jan. 22 rematch in Cuthbert could have region-title implications.
Davis, however, knows it's early and many other region foes are waiting for their shot.
"You got Mitchell County, Calhoun County," Davis said. "You can't say (Saturday was a region-title preview)."
RANDOLPH-CLAY GIRLS 44, TERRELL COUNTY 36:
Terrell County's girls are improving and they proved it Saturday, battling Randolph-Clay to a 23-23 deadlock after three quarters before being outscored, 21-13, in the fourth quarter.
Lady Red Devils sophomore Whenekia Washington led the way with 15 points and three 3-pointers, while Andrea Blackmon scored 11 in the win.
Terrell County was led by Jaleesa Richardson's 10 points, while DeAndra Mitchell scored seven.
Terrell County (0-2, 0-1 Region 1-A) hit just 8-of-24 shots from the foul line. It will host Baker County on Tuesday, while Randolph-Clay hosts Pelham on Tuesday.