At left, South Georgia Tech’s Shontae McCall is leading the Lady Jets in scoring this season at 16.7 points per game. At right, Darton freshman Michelle Mitchell not only leads the Lady Cavs in scoring with 17.6 points per game, but coach Lea Henry said her star player puts her teammates in positions to succeed.
AMERICUS — There’s something special going on in Americus, where the South Georgia Tech women’s basketball team is three wins away from its first perfect Region XVII record in school history.
South Georgia Tech coach Brandan Harrell knows he’s in the middle of something special.
His players know the significance of their season.
Even Darton coach Lea Henry doesn’t deny the extraordinary feat they are trying to pull off. But she also wants to end it with a win in tonight’s showdown between the Lady Cavs and Lady Jets in Americus.
Want to go?
WHO: Darton women at South Georgia Tech.
WHAT: Showdown between rivals and the top two teams in Region XVII.
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. today.
“They have kids who can really shoot the ball,” Henry said. “They play to win and are well coached. They deserve what they have earned, but at the same time we would like to knock ’em off.”
Nobody in the region has been able to knock of the Lady Jets (15-0 Region XVII record) this season, but Darton (11-3) came the closest on Dec. 9 when Lady Cavs freshman Michelle Mitchell missed a shot in the paint at the buzzer that would have given her team the win. Instead, the game went into overtime, and the Lady Jets pulled away for the 61-57 victory.
Today’s game could be just as close.
“It’s been a long time since we have played Darton, and a lot of things have changed since then,” Harrell said. “Hopefully we have gotten a little better. I know that Darton has improved tremendously since then.”
Since that Dec. 9 game, both teams have found their groove. Darton, which is tied for second in the region with Georgia Perimeter, has won eight in a row and 10 of its last 11, while the Lady Jets have won 12 in a row.
Harrell said he is focusing only on next week’s Region XVII tournament, not on finishing with that perfect record. A win today would lock up the No. 1 seed for South Georgia Tech.
“It’s not something we talk about,” Harrell said about finishing a perfect 18-0 in region play. “We would like to get the No. 1 seed. If we just win one of the next three it would give us the No. 1 seed. But if it comes down to resting a kid or getting a kid healthy or winning, we will try to get folks healthy for the tournament.”
Central Georgia Tech was one of several teams that was swept by both Darton and South Georgia Tech this season, and CGT coach Fala Bullock said today’s game could be as close as it was on Dec. 9.
“I think they match up pretty well with each other athleticism-wise,” Bullock told The Herald after she lost by 28 points to Darton on Saturday. “South Georgia Tech is very special because they have girls who can play any position. They kind of do a switching defense and cover up a lot of your sets that you run. I watched the film of their first game, and it was very competitive. I think it’s going to be a knock-down, drag-out game. With Darton playing with the confidence they have, if there is anybody that is going to take South Georgia Tech down it will be Darton.”
Mitchell said it will be the Lady Cavs’ defense that will be the difference.
“We could have at least played a little more aggressively (against SGT earlier in the season),” Mitchell said. “We played well, but we didn’t play as well as we could. It’s going to take everybody to play well and for us to play great defense instead of good defense.”
Henry agreed that her team’s defense could give them the edge.
“We need to really defend well,” Henry said. “We can’t let them get the things they want to get easily.”
A pair of SGT players have been giving opposing defense’s plenty of trouble this season. Shontae McCall is averaging 16.7 points per game and Shanique Holston is averaging 15.4.
The Lady Cavs also have a pair of scoring machines in Mitchell and Christina Brown, who are averaging 17.6 and 11.8 points per game, respectively.
“Darton is playing extremely well right now,” Harrell said. “It should be fun.”