Perfect Seminole boys say long-awaited win vs. R-C would’ve made fallen coach ‘proud’

Seminole County boys coach Kevin Godwin says he was proud of his kids' effort Tuesday in a win against Randolph-Clay, and he felt that former A.D. Jessie McLeod --- who died recently from cancer --- would've been too.

Seminole County boys coach Kevin Godwin says he was proud of his kids' effort Tuesday in a win against Randolph-Clay, and he felt that former A.D. Jessie McLeod --- who died recently from cancer --- would've been too.

DONALSONVILLE — The late Jessie McLeod gave Seminole County much to be proud of in the 40-plus years he was involved with the school and girls basketball program.

That’s what made late Tuesday night’s 75-69 overtime victory against Randolph-Clay so special for the Seminole County boys team.

And that’s what made Indians coach Kevin Godwin have to gather his thoughts before talking afterward about McLeod, the revered coach who Godwin himself had coached under.

“He would have been proud of this win (Tuesday),” Godwin said of McLeod, who passed away recently after losing a sudden battle to cancer. “All of the kids miss his presence, so it was a big win (Tuesday). It will take me awhile to come down from this one.”

McLeod is honored with a plaque outside of the gymnasium that is named after him, and the Lady Indians are wearing commemorative shirts all season to remember their cherished coach.

The Indians, meanwhile, simply honored him Tuesday with their gritty desire and non-stop hustle.

“Win or lose, as long as we have hustle and desire like that, you can go home and sleep at night,” Godwin said. “Our kids had to work hard and overcome a lot of things to upset a really good basketball team. That’s the big thing that is running through my mind right now.”

The Indians trailed in every quarter — including overtime — to a Randolph-Clay team that is ranked No. 3 in the Herald’s Fab 5 Poll and had won four games in a row after losing its season opener to Herald No. 1 Monroe.

But junior Robert Speights, who scored a team-high 26 points, and the Indians found a way to fight back from each deficit — including a nine-point hole to start the game — to beat Randolph-Clay for the first time in Godwin’s seven years as boys coach.

“Heart and desire created a great upset tonight. I’m calling it an upset, and I’m pretty dang sure it’s an upset,” Godwin said. “The road gets tougher for us. We don’t have a lot of superstars, so we will have to continue to win with hustle and desire.”

Seminole County is now 4-0 and off to its best start since 2007, but with a team full of freshmen — three of which who are in the starting lineup — Godwin is concerned how the Indians will handle the upset victory.

“That’s going to be the important thing. How do our kids handle a big win like this?” Godwin said. “I don’t know, we may not handle it well. But for one night, it was a very special night for us.”

One that he knows McLeod was smiling down upon.

“(McLeod) touched every program even if he wasn’t a coach of it,” Godwin said of the school’s longtime A.D., who has been in Donalsonville for 40-plus years. “He was so familiar with all of the programs here, and he would certainly be proud of our win (Tuesday). He was involved with all of the wins here.”

A SPECIAL SEASON: After losing its season-opening game to Herald No. 1 Monroe, the Randolph-Clay girls basketball team has won six in a row.

And after Tuesday night’s 58-56 win against Seminole County, Lady Red Devils coach Jennifer Acree talked about what the early stages of this remarkable season have felt like.

“This year has been a year that we have been waiting for,” Acree said. “We knew we were going to have some seniors who have been in the program for three years, plus we knew the Thornton sisters would finally be together. We have been waiting for this year ever since Kobi Thornton has been a sixth grader.”

The Thornton sisters — freshman Kobi and sophomore Brianna — have given the Lady Red Devils presence in the post this season, while Kanekia Washington — one of the team’s five seniors — has taken over in the backcourt.

Washington and Kobi Thornton, a 6-foot-1 center, were the only two to score in the second half of Tuesday’s game, but it was enough to lead the Herald No. 3 Lady Red Devils to their first win in Donalsonville in three years.

Washington finished with a game-high 23 points and scored her team’s final 14 points of the game, including all of the Lady Red Devils’ 10 points in the fourth quarter.

“Kanekia is a three-year starter, and it’s her time and the rest of the seniors’ time to lead this team,” Acree said.

Kobi Thornton finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds and did most of her damage in the first half, where she had 12 points.

HUMBLING LOSS: Michael Hoffpauir wasn’t surprised, and the Randolph-Clay boys coach certainly wasn’t devastated.

In fact, Hoffpauir said his team’s overtime loss to Seminole County on Tuesday was something that the Herald No. 3 Red Devils might have needed to bring them down to earth.

“It was a humbling experience,” Hoffpauir said about the 75-69 loss. “We were riding high and are a young team. We have a lot to work on, and we may have needed this.”

The Red Devils (4-2, 2-1) had rattled off four wins in a row before Tuesday’s loss, but Randolph-Clay didn’t exactly look like one of the area’s top teams in a game where it turned the ball over 31 times, shot just 16-for-28 from the free throw line and allowed 27 points more than its average of 48 points allowed per game through its first five coming into Tuesday.

It was the lack of defense that had Hoffpauir most concerned.

“Defense is what makes us move, and we have to get back to the basics on defense and be hard-nosed on defense, get after those lose balls and make sure we execute on offense,” said Hoffpauir, a native of Lafayette, La., who played at Georgia Southwestern from 1993-97 and is in his first season as Randolph-Clay’s new boys head coach.

On Saturday, the Red Devils host a always-solid Early County team, and Hoffpauir believes every opponent can be dangerous this season.

“I just got through talking to them about how (we) are a marked team,” he said. “Everybody wants to knock us off. Every game is a rivalry. Every team is going to be gunning for us.”