Albany’s Emmanul Byrd scored just two points in Saturday’s game against Early County, but the junior grabbed 11 rebounds to help the Indians control the boards against Darontay McCoy, left, and Early County in the 66-51 victory for AHS.
ALBANY — Think of your favorite duo, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Batman and Robin, Sherlock Holmes and Watson, or even Baskin and Robbins …
Just pick your favorite 1-2 punch. It’s probably not as good as the one they’ve got at Albany High. Go ahead, just fill in the blank with Punch and Judy or Starsky and Hutch.
Doesn’t matter much, because Albany’s two guards of Tim Pierce and Larry Sanford are writing their own saga, every night on the court, where Pierce and Sanford did it again Saturday night at the Civic Center, stealing the show, the game, and possibly the region with another down-the-stretch run that keeps separating Albany High from every other team in Southwest Georgia.
“I’ve had to face those two for the last four years, and you give respect to them. They are two great athletes, and they’re really learning how to finish the game,’’ said Early County coach Randy Isom, after watching Pierce and Sanford lift Albany High to a 66-51 win against Early.
They do know how to finish.
On Friday, Pierce and Sanford combined to score 16 of AHS’ 20 fourth-quarter points to beat Thomasville, 56-48 to take over first place in the region, and they came back with the same act on Saturday, pouring in 18 fourth-quarter points as AHS outscored Early 22-10 down the stretch to turn a close game into a convincing victory.
“Those two guards did their thing,’’ Albany High coach Archie Chatmon said.
Pierce, a Herald Super 6er, scored 10 in the fourth against Thomasville, and 10 more against Early, dropping in 20 fourth-quarter points against the two next best teams in the region. He finished with 18 points and eight rebounds Saturda and took control when Albany needed it the most in both critical games.
“What can a coach ask for? He’s a coach’s dream,’’ Chatmon said.
Sanford finished with 16 points Saturday after scoring eight in the fourth, and Albany took what had been a tight-fisted, hold-your-breath game and ran away. The game — between Herald No. 1 Albany High and Herald No. 2 Early County was tied 12 times, and lived up to its classic showdown buildup.
Early led 11-10 after one, and Albany was up, 32-31, at halftime. It was still a one-point game when Tyrone Culbreth hit a drive just before the buzzer to give Albany a 44-41 lead at the end of three, and when Darontay McCoy nailed a flying shot on the run with 5:57 left, it was a 46-45 game. Then Pierce and Sanford hit back-to-back 3s to start an 18-4 run that buried Early. They scored 14 of the 18 points.
That run lifted Albany to a 10-1 record in Region 1-AA and the Indians (19-2) can nail down the No. 1 seed in the region tournament with a win against Brooks on Saturday.
“No. 1 with one to go,’’ Chatmon said. “That’s a good place to be.’’
Early County is now 7-4 in the region race and 19-5 overall, with plenty of basketball ahead.
“I’m extremely proud of my kids,’’ Isom said. “We just have to continue to get better finishing the game. We’re good, but not good enough. But you have to tip your hat to Albany. They can play.’’
So can Early. The Bobcats were led by Ladonis Yarbrough, who hit three 3s and finished with 15 points, and McCoy, who scored eight of his 14 points in the fourth.
But it wasn’t enough.
Albany controlled the boards with Culbreth and Emmanul Byrd grabbing 11 each. Culbreth also blocked two shots, hit a pair of 3s and finished with 14 points, and the Indians just out-lasted Early in the end.
“Tenacity, that’s what it was,’’ Chatmon said. “It was just get down and dirty and get it done.’’
ALBANY HIGH GIRLS 56, EARLY COUNTY 45: The Albany High Squaws are headed to the Class AA state playoffs. That’s what Saturday’s victory against Early County meant for AHS, which clinched the second seed in Region 1-AA with the win. The Squaws are now 8-3 in the region with one region game left, next Saturday against first-place Brooks (10-0), which will play host to the region tournament in two weeks.
By earning the second seed, Albany gets a bye and opens the region tournament in the semifinals. The top four teams advance to the state playoffs. Early County (15-8 and 7-4 in the region) could tie Albany at 8-4, but the Squaws won both games against the Lady Bobcats, who can clinch the No. 3 seed with a win against Cook in their region finale next Saturday.
The playoff guarantee helped ignite Herald Super 6er Chasity Mullins, who poured in a career-high 29 points at the Civic Center to lead Albany High. Kairsha Jackson scored 12 for the Squaws, who were still missing point guard Brianna Williams, who is still out with a concussion. Early was led by Justice Lee (14 points) and Tynicia McCoy (10 points).
“I knew if we won we would get the second seed,’’ Mullins said. “I text my coach three or four times (before the game) and she told me if we won we would be No. 2, but if we lost we might be No. 3 or No. 4 or No. 5 — all the places I didn’t want to be.’’
Mullins was unstoppable at times.
“All I knew was that I had to keep driving,’’ she said. “We’re No. 2 and we have a chance to win the region. That’s what this game meant.’’
AHS coach Telly Turner was ecstatic, especially after losing to Thomasville, 31-28, on Friday.
“It feels awesome,’’ she said. “I haven’t had this feeling in three years, not since we won the region in 2009. We’re the No. 2 seed and we definitely have a chance to win the region.’’
MONROE GIRLS 57, TERRELL COUNTY 35: Herald No. 3 Monroe (15-7) fell behind 7-0, and then took control to win the non-region game against a scrappy and improving team from Terrell County.
The Lady Tornadoes were led by Herald Super 6er Sheniqua Young, who hit four 3s and finished with 15 points. Cessiley Colwell and Kizzie Coleman each scored 11 for the Lady Tornadoes. Monroe has a huge Region 1-AAA game against city rival Westover (23-0) at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Darton.
Terrell County (6-17) was led by Nydra Wright, who hit three 3s and finished with 14 points. Jasmine Soilberry followed with 10. The Lady Greenwave face Calhoun County at home at 6 p.m. Tuesday.