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Lady Red Devils raise their game as star Mitchell gets even more Division I looks

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

CUTHBERT -- Jennifer Acree knows her team can score. That, she's not worried about.

But after an upset loss to Westover on Jan. 9, the Randolph-Clay girls coach pulled her girls together and told them change was needed.

"I told them we'd lost focus and I take the blame for that," said Acree, whose girls are ranked No. 2 in The Herald's Top 5 Poll with a 19-3 record, and No. 5 in the GSWA state poll in Class A. "But more importantly, we needed everyone to up their game and begin to generate points defensively. We have a scoring threat in (star) Destiny (Mitchell) -- only now it was time to focus on defense."

And looking at Randolph-Clay's last six games -- all wins in which they outscored their opponents a staggering 442-209 -- the players have heeded their coach's request.

"Yeah, some have been blowouts, but that's part of what I'm trying to teach, and they're learning: Don't let up," Acree said. "We've got to play (an entire game)."

The pounding of the opposition began immediately after the 55-48 loss to Westover, beginning with a 60-30 rout of Miller County, a 71-47 trouncing of Pelham, a 94-28 beat down of Baker County, a 90-16 thrashing of Terrell County and a 74-43 licking of Abbeville (Ala.). The closest game came against second-place region foe Seminole County, which the Lady Red Devils beat, 54-45.

"(Since our talks), so far the results have been great," said Acree, whose team -- which has reached the Class A Final Four the last three years in a row, two of those with Acree as coach -- is 9-0 in region play and has the regular-season championship already locked up.

Of course, let's not forget what got Randolph-Clay to this point: Mitchell, who is averaging "close to 30 points" a game, Acree said.

Mitchell's great season has continued to grab the interest from major Division I college

coaches, especially since her monster, 53-point game against Herald No. 1 and state No. 5 Bainbridge earlier this year.

However, Acree confirmed Monday that Mitchell is no longer being recruited by Georgia -- "They need a 6'2 or 6'3 post player and don't have any scholarships left, so they're out," Acree said -- but remains on the watch list for Rutgers. Acree added that in the last month, N.C. State has also called, showing interest.

Also, The Herald received information last week that former WNBA star and South Carolina coach Dawn Staley was interested in Mitchell, but Acree said Monday she had not been contacted by anyone with the Gamecocks' program.

"She's got some good interest, but after the region and state playoffs, I expect it to really heat up," she said.

Randolph-Clay's next game is Friday at Miller County.