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REGION 1-AA TOURNAMENT: AHS boys stay hot, advance to 1-AA title game; Squaws fall short

QUITMAN — Kenny Anderson picked a good night to have his best game of the year, and Albany High knew it.

Squaws squander late lead, fall in region semifinals

QUITMAN — Telly Turner was upset, and she had no intention of hiding it.

“We didn’t execute our game plan,‘’ she said moments after her Albany High Squaws lost to Thomasville, 46-43, on Thursday in the Region 1-AA semifinals at the Brooks County gym.

The Squaws built a lead early, but couldn’t hang on in the fourth quarter as the Lady Bulldogs won the chance to play for the title tonight at the free throw line.

That’s where Thomasville won this one. The Lady Bulldogs made 23-of-31 free throws, and just seemed to make every one that counted down the stretch as they outscored Albany (11-11) by three points in the fourth quarter.

“It was good to see,’’ Thomasville coach Thomas McAboy said. “We haven‘t been making them.’’

Laneshia Douglas could hold her own clinic. She made 15-of-21 free throws, including going 7-of-8 in the fourth quarter to finish with a game-high 22 points. Herald Super 6er Chasity Mullins led Albany with 20 points.

The Squaw jumped out to a 13-6 first-quarter lead and were up, 26-19, at halftime, but couldn’t find the basket in the third quarter, and Thomasville took a 31-30 lead late the third before Mullins knotted the score at 31-31 with a free throw.

Then the Lady Bulldogs (10-15) — who have won six in a row and are the three-time defending Region 1-AA champs — took over in the fourth and built a 44-39 lead when Douglas hit a drive with 2:12 left, then hung on to win by three.

“We tried to match Albany’s energy on defense,’’ McAboy said. “They came out with a lot of energy and took it to us and got the lead in the first half. But we had a lot more energy in the second half, and I think it wore them down.’’

Turner was simply disappointed.

“We were just un-coachable, and we didn’t execute our game plan,’’ she said. “That’s it. That‘s the story of this game.’’

Albany High now plays Cook at 4 p.m. today in the third-place consolation game.

After all, this was Cook, the team that gives Albany fits, the team that stops everything the Indians do well and frustrates both the kids and the coaches.

“I hate playing him,’’ said Albany High coach Archie Chatmon moments after his team held off Cook, 36-32, in the semifinals of the Region 1-AA tournament, where Albany entered as the No. 1 seed and left the Brooks County gym with a long sigh of relief.

“The good news is we play Thomasville (tonight) in the final,’’ Chatmon said. “But we had to fight to get there.’’

It’s like this every time Albany High plays Cook, a tough, disciplined team that plays a slow, deliberate style of ball that makes you pay for every mistake. That’s why Cook plays tougher against Albany High, which is 22-2, ranked No. 1 in the Herald Fab 5 and No. 5 in the Class AA state poll, than anyone.

“It’s just like two boxers with the same style going against each other,’’ Chatmon said. “It’s the same game every time we play them. It takes a whole team — a team effort to win a game like that against a team like that. We needed everybody tonight, because you knew the usual (players) wouldn’t have their usual nights.’’

Herald Super 6er Tim Pierce, who is capable of dropping 30 points on anyone, was once again the clutch player every coach dreams about, scoring 19 points on a night when points were hard to find. It was Pierce who nailed it down with a pair of free throws with 8.8 seconds left that turned a two-point lead into a berth in the Region 1-AA title game at 8:30 tonight back at the Brooks County gym, where Pierce scored seven of Albany High’s first nine points, and scored the final four.

Anderson was inspiring, coming up with one big, heads-up play after another and leading Albany in rebounds with 10 on a night when Cook’s 6-7 Jerome Hill dominated. Anderson fell just short of a double-double with nine points and 10 boards, but was the catalyst in more ways than Chatmon could talk about.

“Kenny was awesome,’’ Chatmon said. “He was the difference in the game. We needed him. And we challenged him all week to play this kind of game. We knew we were going to have to have him (against Cook).’’

They got the game they wanted, and after trailing, 20-19 at halftime, the Indians finally wrestled the lead away from Cook, which meets Early County at 5:30 tonight in the third-place game.

And in a game where defense dictated everything, Albany High’s defense took control in the second half, holding Cook to just two baskets from the floor in the third quarter. Pierce opened the second half with a 10-footer and the hit a put-back to knot things at 23-23, and Larry Sanford, who is usually good for 15 to 20 points a night, followed that play with a fast break to lift Albany to a 25-23 lead with 3:48 left in the third. It was Sanford’s first points of the game. He took only six shots, and finished with four points.

But it was that kind of game -- a tense, grind-it-out game that these two teams always seem to play.

The Indians forced five turnovers in the third, and took over with an 8-0 run that was all Pierce and Sanford. Pierce followed up Sanford’s fast break with a spinning reverse to make it 27-23, and Tyrone Culbreth made a steal and zipped a pass to Sanford, whose second fast-break gave Albany a 29-23 lead.

Then it was a matter of hanging on against the Hornets and Jerome Hill, who scored 15 of Cook’s first 19 points and then played with four fouls for most of the second half. He finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds, and hit a big 3-pointer to close to 29-28. But Anderson answered him with a huge 3 of his own, to rock the lead back to four points at 32-28. Hill’s final basket of the night -- a short jumper -- closed it to 34-32 with 1:20 left

But the Indians held the ball, and the Hornets, who had only two fouls called against them in the second half, had to foul over and over just to put Albany on the line. Pierce arrived there with 8.8 seconds left and ended the mystery, nailing two free throws to put it away.