ALBANY -- Mitchell County girls coach Rosemary Sanders likes to say her program broke the curse, ending a three-year streak during which her Lady Eagles had lost in the GHSA Class AA Sweet 16.
This year, her team advances to the Elite Eight after a 45-40 win against No. 1-seeded Appling County on Wednesday. Mitchell now will meet Vidalia at 4 p.m. Saturday at Georgia Southwestern with an appearance in the Final Four on the line.
"We finally got over the hump, it means a lot to everybody," said Sanders, whose team is 21-7.
Kedeemya Cooper and Tiona Burley scored 14 points each, but a huge lift for the Lady Eagles came from Aschia Davis, who contained Appling County's post play.
"We just came out and played defense from the beginning to the end," Sanders said. "We played a good, aggressive team. We knew they were going to be aggressive, but we responded."
Looking ahead, Sanders said Burley and Cooper will still be the keys.
"I think Tiona is going to be the key factor for us," Sanders said. "She will have to will us to the Final Four, and Kedeemya is our ballhandler. She will have to control the game."
LEE'S DREAM SEASON COMES TO AN END:
Lee County's season finally ended Wednesday, but only after the Lady Trojans, who had stormed into the state playoffs, stormed back one last time, but fell just short to state power Statesboro, 60-54.
"They were on fire in the first quarter. They came out running and gunning and ran right past us,'' said Lee County coach Fran McPherson, whose team trailed by as many as 16 early. "We looked like a deer in headlights.''
Then came the comeback that started with a 14-2 run which ended the first half at 29-25, and didn't end until Lee County (21-9) had closed to 39-37, before Statesboro (26-3) pulled away in the final two minutes to win by six.
"We battled and battled, but we never could get the lead,'' McPherson said. "We were down by four with 4:14 left when a player got a technical foul and they got four quick points and went up by eight.''
Daquenna Moore scored 18 points and pulled down 12 rebounds and Lindsey Crawford scored 13 for Lee County.
"We didn't play smart, and at this level you can't dig yourself in that kind of hole,'' McPherson said. "We battled back. You just pat the kids on the back and say, 'Hey, you had a great season." "
TAYLOR COUNTY 67, SEMINOLE COUNTY 36:
The Lady Indians led the mighty No. 1-seeded girls from Taylor County in the first quarter.
But that was the only time that would happen.
Taylor stormed back and neutralized the efforts of freshmen Katrese Brown and Alexis Watson, who led Seminole with 10 points each.
Senior Carrie Washington flirted with a quadruple-double, scoring nine points, blocking seven shots, swiping eight steals and pulling down 11 rebounds.
"It's kind of bittersweet," Washington said. "We had a great season but we hate that it ends like this. We'll get over it. I think the seniors are ready for life to take its course. It was a good run."
Seminole coach Jesse McLeod said he was proud of the effort.
"I really thought we would be able to play with them after that first quarter because the girls really were playing tough," he said. "But that's just the way it goes."