Mitchell County's Bruce Bryant scored a season-high 19 points in Friday's win against Calhoun County.
CAMILLA — It looked as if Bruce Bryant and his Mitchell County teammates were running circles around Calhoun County in the closing minutes of Friday’s Region 1-A rivalry game.
And that’s exactly how Mitchell County coach Kenneth Harris drew it up.
The Herald No. 5 Eagles started the fourth quarter 10-for-13 from the field and turned a close game into an easy, 74-63 victory, and Harris said it was his team’s fresh legs in the final eight minutes that made the difference.
“We want to finish that fourth quarter with our starters,” Harris said. “So the starters play about five minutes in each of the first three quarters, and we save them for the fourth.”
Bryant scored seven of his season-high 19 points in the final eight minutes and was a perfect 3-for-3 during the fourth quarter, which the Eagles opened with a 21-8 run to put the game away.
“We let them hang in the game, but we turned it up in the fourth quarter,” Bryant said. “We had fresh legs.”
Fresh legs and fearless defense.
That’s the combination that Harris hopes keeps working for the Eagles, who are now 3-1 overall and 2-1 in the region.
“We still have to clean up some things,” Harris said. “We are still making too many turnovers and missing too many free throws, but if you play defense and hustle then you always have a chance to win.”
Mitchell County’s Jaquan Williams was 4-for-5 in the fourth quarter and scored 11 points, while teammate Brian Peoples added 15 points.
Jermaine Hartsfield ran into foul trouble and was held scoreless in the second half, but the star forward still finished with nine points.
The Cougars were led by Quenton Taylor’s 23 points, while DaJohn Williams and Sherrod Williams each added 12 points.
Calhoun County, which lost to Mitchell County in the Region 1-A championship last season, led for much of the first half and even built its lead to as many as 10 points midway through the second quarter.
The Eagles, however, closed the first half on a 16-4 run, took a two-point lead into halftime and never trailed in the second half.
Bryant said it wasn’t just his team’s fresh legs that helped the Eagles pull away late.
“It’s our chemistry,” Bryant said. “We have been playing together since we were little.”
The Eagles play again today at Quitman County, while Calhoun County hosts Baker.
MITCHELL COUNTY GIRLS 57, CALHOUN COUNTY 47: Brandi Buie simply ran out of time.
The Calhoun County star guard scored 15 of her game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to dig the visiting Lady Cougars out of a huge hole in the Region 1-A rivalry.
While Buie looked unstoppable late, it was Calhoun County post players A’Miracle Jones, Deondre Hill and Miya Barnes that helped The Herald No. 5 Lady Cougars build its early lead, which reached as high as 23 points.
Jones finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, Hill had 12 points and seven rebounds and Barnes had 10 points and nine rebounds.
“That’s our strength,” said Mitchell County assistant coach Wendy Whitlock, who was filling in for head coach Rosemary Sanders, who is on maternity leave. “Our strength is inside. The girls know to get it down low.”
Mitchell County (3-1, 2-1) never trailed and held Calhoun to eight or fewer points in each of the first three quarters.
Calhoun County (4-2, 1-1) scored just 21 points in the first three quarters until it found its groove with a 26-point fourth quarter that turned a 23-point game into a 10-point loss.
But it was just too little too late, Calhoun coach Marcus Shaw said.
“We didn’t get settled in until the fourth quarter,” he said. “It was the whole team. We just didn’t play until the fourth.”
Buie was the only Lady Cougar to score more than six points. Keyanna Wells added six points and eight rebounds, while Destiny McIntyre scored five points.