ALBANY -- How good is McArthur Gaines?
"No one can touch him. No one can mess with him,'' said Dougherty forward Montavious Heath, who scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds Tuesday night in Dougherty's 77-68 victory against Crisp County.
"He's so fast,'' said Dougherty center Darrell Anthony of Gaines. "He's so fast he makes fast people look not fast.''
Gaines won't take any bows.
None at all.
"I'm just playing, just trying to find the open man. Just trying to win the game,'' said Gaines, who had another monster night on Tuesday.
He scored 28 points, handed out five assists, grabbed six rebounds, made seven steals and ran the court at times leaving Crisp and the crowd breathless after some quick-silver moves to the basket. He made 13 of 24 shots, including a couple of dunks, and went 7-for-12 from the field in the second half to lift Dougherty. It was the third time in seven games that Gaines has put up 28 points.
But that's only part of the story for the Herald Super 6er who just seems to be in the middle of everything the Trojans do -- and right now the Trojans seem to do everything well.
They're 6-1 and ranked No. 4 in The Herald heading into Friday's showdown with Herald No. 1 Monroe at the Albany Civic Center, where a huge crowd is expected for a classic doubleheader featuring Monroe-Dougherty's boys and girls teams and girls and boys games pitting Westover against Thomasville.
"We'll be ready,'' Gaines said of Friday's showdown against Monroe, which was upset by Worth County, 78-59, on Tuesday.
The Trojans were ready Tuesday and held back a tenacious Crisp County team that just wouldn't go away. The Cougars led 22-19 after the first quarter and were down 34-33 at halftime, but Dougherty took over in the third quarter when Gaines scored eight points in a 14-4 run and lifted the Trojans to a 48-37 lead with a steal and a dunk with 2:25 left in the third.
Crisp, which was led by Marshall Taylor (20 points) and D.J. Jackson (19 points) kept coming and closed to 66-63 with two minutes left in the game with a the help of a Jackson 3-pointer that sparked an 8-3 run.
But Gaines answered with two big drives, dishing the ball off to Chris Holmes on back-to-back coast-to-coast trips, and Holmes, who finished with 16 points, gave the Trojans a 70-65 lead. Ted Washington dropped in a pair of free throws with 54 seconds left to all but put the game away at 72-65.
"That's a great team,'' Crisp County coach Terry Smith said. "They're a typical Dougherty County team. They play tough and play great defense. They're defense is their offense.''
Smith's team has played much better than its 4-7 record and the Cougars are 0-2 in Region 1-AAA with a double overtime loss to Monroe and a tough loss to Dougherty.
"The way to the state championship goes through Region 1-AAA,'' he said. 'It's the best region in the state.''
Dougherty's Donald Poole knows that road is a long one.
"We have to start playing better,'' he said after watching his team pull out the win. "We have to take care of the ball at the end of games. I'm upset with the way we're playing. We've got to play better.''
DOUGHERTY GIRLS 44, CRISP COUNTY 42:
Shawntell Byrd knew it was going to happen before it happened.
"I just wanted the ball in my hands,'' said Byrd, who grabbed on offensive rebound off a missed free throw and then banked in a 44-42 win for Dougherty with 1.1 second left on the clock to complete an incredible comeback by the Lady Trojans.
"I was thinking, if she misses the free throw, I'm getting the ball,'' Byrd said. "I just wanted to win the game. And when I did...I felt like I won everything.''
It's been feeling pretty good these days around Dougherty, where the Lady Trojans have now won seven in a row as they head into Friday's showdown with city rival Monroe at the Albany Civic Center.
But Tuesday night's win at home was the most dramatic.
Dougherty trailed by nine points (41-32) with 3:30 left in the game, and it seemed at times that the Lady Trojans couldn't buy a basket. But Terrianna Martin, who scored all eight of her points in the fourth quarter, started a 12-1 run with a pair of inside shots and Byrd followed with a drive to close to 41-38. Dougherty caught the Lady Cougars when Jayla Hooper (6 points) hit a pair of free throws with 22.5 seconds left, and Byrd made a steal with 11 seconds left to give Dougherty a chance to close it out.
Hooper missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw with 3.6 seconds left, but Byrd, who led the way with 14 points, was there for the rebound and the put-back.
"The turning point in the game was the kids' determination not to give up,'' Dougherty coach Charlene Jackson said. "That's what turned it around.''
Crisp County (2-8 and 0-2 in Region 1-AAA) committed six turnovers during the final three minutes and missed five of six free throws to open the door for Dougherty. The Lady cougars made just 15 of 33 free throws while Dougherty shot only 10 free throws all night.
Herald No. 4 Dougherty is now 9-2 and 2-1 in Region 1-AAA play, but the Lady Trojans just seem to get better every night on this seven game streak.
"Shawntell Byrd has been playing big for us the last five games,'' Jackson said. "She (is only a junior) but she has been playing since she was a freshman and she is one of the players who has the most experience.''