Darton star Michelle Mitchell had another all-around solid night Wednesday in the Lady Cavs’ first meeting of the season against Albany Tech — a 62-40 Darton win.
ALBANY — Gathered around coach Lea Henry in the locker room before Wednesday game against Albany Tech, the Darton Lady Cavs made a commitment to their coach.
It was a promise not to let up on defense, to push themselves for 40 straight minutes.
“That’s something that we really want our team to do game in and game out,” Henry said. “So before the game, we made a big commitment to focus on defense.”
And the Lady Cavs followed through.
Darton held Albany Tech to a season-low 40 points and 28 percent shooting from the floor to cruise to a 62-40 Region XVII victory.
It was a win that nationally-ranked No. 24 Darton (11-2, 7-1) needed after having an eight-game winning streak snapped Saturday against Georgia Perimeter.
“It felt good to come back (and win) after a tough loss like that,” Darton sophomore Michelle Mitchell said. “After losing a tough game like that, we got a mindset to play harder and commit to keep winning.”
Chanteniece Fann said the loss was still on her mind as she took the court Wednesday night.
“We don’t like losing, so we had to come back hard,” Fann said. “And the easiest way to score is to play good defense.”
Mitchell, the reigning Region XVII Player of the Year, led Darton’s full-court, non-stop defensive attack with seven steals. The sophomore from Eastman also had 12 points and six rebounds, bouncing back after scoring a season-low four points against Georgia Perimeter.
“(Coach Henry) told us to make (Wednesday’s) game a defensive game and to get every loose ball, to pressure the ball and get it and go,” Mitchell said.
Defense is what has pushed the Lady Cavs to second place in the region standings behind Georgia Highlands, a first-year program that is undefeated and coached by former South Georgia Tech coach Brandan Harrell.
Darton had 17 steals Wednesday, forced 24 Albany Tech turnovers and held an opposing team to 50 or fewer points for the 10th time this season.
“Basically if we play good defense we get transition shots,” Fann said. “It’s all about running the floor. That’s the only thing we talk about.”
Fann finished with a game-high 15 points and five rebounds, while Darton point guard Jasmine Wilson had seven points, five assists and four steals.
“Fann has played well,” Henry said. “She is our vocal leader and plays with consistency day in and day out.”
Quineka Moffett scored 10 points and dished out six assists for the Lady Titans, who were without their top two players — Lashay Lettingham and Ashley Towns — and couldn’t find any rhythm on offense. Lettingham, the team’s top player and No. 3 scorer in the region, was sidelined with a back injury, while Towns, the team’s second leading scorer, sprained her ankle in the opening minutes of the game and sat the rest of the night on the bench.
“Missing our top two scorers and top two defenders really hurt,” Albany Tech coach Kenneth Williams said. “Of course Darton played us hard, but we aren’t using that as an excuse. We could have executed better on offense, but (the injuries) definitely hurt.”
Towns sank three 3-pointers in the first four minutes to give Albany Tech an early 16-8 lead, but the freshman missed the rest of the game — and it showed on the scoreboard. The Lady Titans scored just 24 points in the final 36 minutes and finished with only 11 second-half points.
The Lady Cavs went on scoring runs of 15-1 and 14-3 to pull away in the first meeting this season between the two rivals, who will play again Feb. 13 at Darton.
“Darton had us scrambling a lot, and (Henry) changed the defense up and confused our players quite a bit with that,” Williams said.
The Lady Titans (8-6, 2-4) have lost four of their last five games after winning six straight in November, and Williams said it won’t be easy to fight back up the region standings after falling to seventh place with the loss.
“We aren’t executing like we should and are having mental breakdowns,” Williams said. “We are really going to have to turn it up. We fell down in the region, and it’s going to take a total team effort to climb back up.”
Albany Tech plays again Sunday at Chattahoochee Tech, while Darton wraps up its pre-Christmas schedule Tuesday at home against Middle Georgia Tech.