ALBANY -- Coach Archie Chatmon thought his Albany High School boys had Mitchell County right where they wanted it.
That was, until "Houdini" took over.
"Houdini," the nickname given to Mitchell County's Derrick Hardwick for his passing skills, scored seven of his season-high 10 points during the second quarter while setting the tone for a 58-55 victory and a season sweep of the Indians.
The Eagles also defeated Albany, 63-62, on Dec. 8.
Scoring most of his points on the inside via putbacks, Hardwick gave the Eagles' Derex Woumnm a pleasant surprise since he is not known to score often.
"He was really big for us (Friday)," said Woumnm, who is a community coach leading the Eagles while Kenneth Harris acts as official head coach.
Woumnm then added: "It's usually big when he just pulls down rebounds for us. For him to score the points he did, that's just a bonus."
Rallying from an early, 13-2, deficit, the Eagles responded with a 21-12 second quarter. Although Hardwick helped jump-start Mitchell County's comeback, co-captain Kentavius Silus scored eight of his nine points during the final period to hold Albany off to improve to 10-6 overall and 6-3 in GHSA Region 1-AA.
"That's what a co-captain is supposed to do," Woumnm said. "They take over, and I want the ball in his and (fellow co-captain) Emmitt Clark's hands because of that."
Clark also finished in double figures with 10 points.
Chatmon, who has a youthful team, refused to make that an excuse.
"This one hurts," said Chatmon, whose team is 11-7 and 8-3. "Youth is no excuse. It's time to put up or shut up. We're a pretty good team, just go out and do what you've got to do."
Charges taken by the Indians' Roscoe Byrd (he drew four for the game) and six first-quarter points helped Albany jump out to an 11-point lead. The Eagles then made their comeback, closing within 19-14 on a Jaquan Williams 3-pointer early in the second quarter. Then, Hardwick who made back-to-back jumpers to give Mitchell County its first lead, 30-29, with 53 seconds left before halftime.
"Coach told us to keep our composure after the first quarter," Hardwick said. "He told us to just keep playing."
Leading, 32-29, at halftime, Mitchell County stretched its lead to, 44-39, and the closest Albany got after that was 52-51 after a tip-in by Jarvis Hicks. Hicks led Albany with 18 points, followed by Tim Pierce with 15.
ALBANY GIRLS 53, MITCHELL COUNTY 35:
Lady Eagles star and UNCC signee Tiona Burley began serving the first of her five-game suspension ordered by the team for disciplinary reasons, and Albany outscored Mitchell County, 15-4, in the first quarter.
Mitchell County, which also suspended starter Aschiaa Davis for two games, never found its offensive rhythm after the first quarter. Chasity Mullins led Albany with 22 points, followed by Jasmine Myers (15) and Kizzie Coleman (10).
"We came out with intensity, which was critical," said Albany coach Telly Turner, whose team is 12-8 overall and 9-4 in the region. "Mostly when you start good, you finish good."
D'Erika Quimbley led Mitchell County with 12 points.