CUTHBERT - Katrese Brown saved the Seminole County Lady Indians' season twice on Friday.
Brown not only made a layup that sent Friday's GHSA Region 1-A semifinal game against Bacon County into overtime, she thwarted Bacon's final chance to attempt the game winner. After she preserved the 46-45 win at Randolph-Clay High School, she put to rest any early concerns Seminole coach Jesse McLeod had about her inexperience as a freshman.
"She started out nervous," the coach said. "She's a freshman, though, so you would kind of expect that. But she really made some key plays for us late."
Brown did not seem so nervous in overtime, stripping the ball from Bacon County's Ashlyn Poole as the clock expired.
"I had to do something," Brown said.
The Lady Indians advance to today's 7 p.m. title game against Randolph-Clay, which swept Seminole during the regular season. During Randolph-Clay's semifinal win against Clinch County on Friday, the Lady Red Devils won in a rout, 77-35.
"This is the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds in our subregion playing for the region title (today) and that says a lot," Randolph-Clay coach Jennifer Acree said.
Seminole County's win Friday did not occur, however, without some concerns leading up to tonight's game after senior star Carrie Washington rolled her left ankle during the third quarter. While she was out for a short time, Bacon County finished a 9-2 run with a Chelstey Moore layup for a 42-33 lead with 5:21 left in the game. Although Washington eventually re-entered the game a short time later and scored the go-ahead basket in overtime, finishing with 19 points, her ankle was noticeably swollen after the game. She said she balked at McLeod's suggestion she may not re-enter the game for fear of making her ankle worse.
"I was going in, I had to go in to help my team," Washington said.
McLeod reinstated the Indians' full-court press a short time later and the momentum quickly changed. Consecutive baskets by the Lady Indians' Alexus Watson, who finished with nine points, sparked Seminole County's surge while Bacon County appeared to struggle against the defensive pressure and the Lady Indians' athleticism.
"Our press opened up better opportunities for us to score baskets," said McLeod, whose team's record improved to 15-5. "We felt like we could create some turnovers with our style of defense, and we were able to do that."
It was none other than Washington who made a putback with 2:38 remaining to get her team within, 42-41, and setting the tone for overtime.
"Once (Washington) went back in the game, she picked up where she left off and she remained tough under the boards," McLeod said.
After Brown's layup forced overtime, the Indians set a different tone when Washington and Watson blocked consecutive Bacon County shot attempts.
"I think those two blocks made us realize that we could win the game right there," McLeod said.
Fewer than 60 seconds into the four-minute overtime, Washington positioned herself for a layup that gave Seminole County the lead for good, 45-43, and Watson added a free throw a short time later. To illustrate some of Bacon County's late misfortunes, a 3-point attempt by Bacon County's Adra Brinson became lodged between the rim and backboard, resulting in a turnover.
After the game, the biggest concern was Washington's ankle. However, she said she will play through the pain.
"I will stay off my ankle (late Friday night) and stay off of it as much as I can (today) before the game," Washington said. "(But) I will be playing."
RANDOLPH-CLAY 77, CLINCH COUNTY 35:
Destiny Mitchell flirted with a quadruple-double and she received plenty of help from other teammates. Mitchell had 10 points, 11 steals, eight assists and nine rebounds. Meanwhile, Shamarra Stevens scored a career-high 21 points, followed by Asha Alexander with 14.
Stevens made four 3-pointers and had 16 points by halftime while Alexander added 14 during that same stretch.
"I don't think I've ever looked at the scorebook at halftime and seen Destiny as just our third-leading scorer," said Acree, who played prep basketball at Dougherty under current Darton College women's basketball coach Laura Blackwell.
All-around point production has been Acree's main concern throughout this season.
"A lot of people stepped up (Friday)," Mitchell said. "They stepped up and did what we had to do. And that's what we're going to have to do if we're going to win region - play team ball."
So far in the playoffs, Acree said she is satisfied with that.
"If this is any indication of how we're going to play for the entire postseason, I am so looking forward to it," Acree said.