South Georgia Tech coach Brandan Harrell
AMERICUS --- In the battle of 1 vs. 2 on Monday night, it was South Georgia Tech’s 1-2 punch that got the better of Darton’s.
Shontae McCall and Shanique Holston combined to score 43 of the Lady Jets’ 63 points as South Georgia (22-8, 16-0) rolled to a 63-51 win at the Hangar, keeping its perfect Region XVII record intact.
“I think our kids we’re really looking forward to this game (after our first meeting earlier this season),” Lady Jets coach Brandan Harrell said of the first contest back in December won by SGT in overtime, 61-57 — a game that marked the closest any team in Region XVII has come to beating South Georgia this season. “It’s a relief and we’re glad to (still be undefeated), but we’ve still got two games left and -- I know this sounds cliche’ -- but we’re just taking it one game at a time.”
But no one’s denying that Monday’s game against Lea Henry’s Lady Cavs (11-4 in region) was a big hurdle for the Lady Jets to get over if they want to finish off the first perfect season in the program’s eight-year history.
SGT now has just two games left on its regular-season schedule — Thursday at Chattahoochee Tech and Saturday at home against Middle Georgia, which moved into a second-place tie with Darton after the Lady Cavs’ loss Monday — to wrap up an 18-0 record and lay claim as the best junior college women’s basketball team in the state.
Darton, winners of eight in a row coming into Monday, did its best to solve the riddle no other team in Georgia has been able to this season, but saw a 30-27 halftime deficit grow from almost the opening tip of the second half. McCall, who scored 15 of her game-high 23 in the first half, gave way after intermission to Holston, who poured in 15 in the second half to finish with 20.
“Give them credit,” Henry said. “We didn’t play all that well, but a lot of that had to do with how well they played and the things they did on defense. They score quickly and McCall is tough. She takes the game into her hands and (her and Shanique) hit some big shots for them.”
The glaring stat, however, is what both teams did from beyond the arc: SGT was 5-of-15 from 3-point range, while Darton was 0-fer.
“That was the difference right there,” said Henry, whose team was led by Chanteniece Fann, who was the Lady Cavs’ only double-figure scorer with 10 points and seven rebounds. “We didn’t score easily (Monday night) --- not like we did when we first played them --- and we didn’t hit a three all game. I think that’s where we lost.”
Darton leading scorer Michelle Mitchell, who is averaging close to 19 points a game, was held to just seven, while 6-foot-6 center Crystal Reed --- who wasn’t eligible to play in the first meeting --- didn’t make as big of a difference as many thought she may, scoring just nine with two blocks.
“They did a good job on Michelle and Crystal. Michelle is still young and Crystal is getting better with every game,” said Henry, whose team begins to close out the regular season at home Thursday against Chattahoochee Tech, then plays Albany Tech in its regular-season finale at Albany State on Saturday. “They did some jump-switch on our screens and really pressured the ball. They’re a good team, but we hope to see them again.”
That could very well happen if things play out in the upcoming region tournament --- which starts next Tuesday when the top four seeds all host first-round games, before the Final Four switches to Armstrong Atlantic University in Savannah later in the week --- like Darton hopes. The Lady Cavs are currently in a three-way tie with Middle Georgia and Georgia Perimeter for second place, but even if Darton loses the tiebreaker, it’s still assured to finish no worse than fourth and will host a first-round game.
Of course, only the region tournament champ sees its season stay alive and advances to districts. So even if the Lady Jets can finish with a perfect region record, the No. 1 overall tournament seed and make school history, it will be all for naught if they can’t handle business come tournament time.
“I can remember a few years ago when we were the No. 1 seed, got down by 14 points at half and then almost lost to Atlanta Metro in the tournament,” Harrell said. “So we’re taking nothing for granted. Just one game at a time.”