Darton sophomore Michelle Mitchell goes up for a shot against South Georgia Tech’s Rasheda Patterson during the first half of Wednesday’s game. Mitchell scored a team-high 22 points and hit a last-second shot in regulation to send the game into overtime.
ALBANY — Ask Michelle Mitchell what part of her game is her strength. She’ll say defense all day long.
Darton’s sophomore leader made the shot to send Wednesday’s NJCAA Region XVII game against South Georgia Tech to overtime, but it was her lock-down defense at the end of OT that sealed a 52-50 win for the Lady Cavaliers.
Mitchell hit a short jumper with two seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 48-48 after Darton had gone cold in the second half and the Lady Jets rallied to lead the last two minutes before the upset on the road was spoiled.
“We just ran a little clear out for her,” Darton head coach Lea Henry said of Mitchell’s final shot in regulation. “She likes to take the big shot.”
Darton outscored South Georgia Tech 4-2 in overtime and after Mitchell hit another inside shot to give the Lady Cavs a 52-50 lead with 1:03 to play, she pestered Lady Jets’ guard Shaquaya Daniels on the last possession, forcing an errant pass that caused the final shot to miss badly at the buzzer.
“They tried to make me commit to get a foul,” Mitchell said. “She just lost (the ball).”
Mitchell finished with 22 points and nine boards after scoring 16 at the half. Darton (10-1, 6-0 Region XVIII) hit just one shot outside of the key in the second-half and lost its lead for the first time when South Georgia Tech went on a 9-0 run to take a 45-36 lead on Daniels’ jumper with 7:10 to play.
Darton, which is ranked 24th in the nation, answered with a 9-0 run of its own, six of those points coming from sophomore Chantaniece Fann, who stepped up after the Lady Jets’ took Mitchell away for most of the final 20 minutes. Fann scored 13 points and had five rebounds in the win.
“We never stopped trying to win the game,” Henry said. “Once we started getting that momentum back, the confidence came back.”
South Georgia Tech (6-4, 2-3 Region XVII) took a 47-46 lead with 2:17 to play in regulation on Kadriana Howard’s jumper in the lane.
The Lady Jets went 0-for-7 at the free throw line in the second half before Rosheda Patterson hit 1-of-2 at the line for a 48-46 lead with 10 seconds to play, setting up Mitchell’s heroics on the other end.
“This is a really big win,” Henry said. “This team is a fun team to work with. They’re real talented, but they’ve got a lot to learn.”
Outside of a 66-62 loss at Chattahoochee Valley Community College, the Lady Cavs had not been in a tight game this season but responded with poise.
“It was a wake-up call,” Mitchell said.
South Georgia Tech took a 20-19 lead momentarily in the first half before Darton went on a 9-0 run, including two Mitchell free throws off a technical foul called on Lady Jets’ head coach James Frey.
Frey was upset his team had been whistled for seven fouls in the first 16 minutes compared to just one against Darton, and he let the referees know about it.
Darton’s first-half run opened a 28-20 lead on Fann’s free throw with 3:06 left before half. South Georgia Tech’s Patterson hit a 3-pointer with 24 seconds left cutting the halftime lead to 30-25.
Nikki Blackburn led the Lady Jets, who swept Darton last serason, with 14 points and nine rebounds.
Darton, which picked up a forfeit win last Saturday over Middle Georgia College after MGC got into a fight with another team, has now won eight straight games and hasn’t lost in more than a month. The Lady Cavs play at Georgia Perimeter Saturday. Darton and South Georgia Tech meet again Feb. 6 in Americus.