Herald Super 6er Chasity Mullins, left, tries to drive past Brooks County’s Jasmine Mapp during Friday night’s huge Region 1-AA showdown at Albany High. The Squaws, who could’ve seized first place in the region with a victory, lost to Brooks County, 55-50, despite a furious comeback.
ALBANY — For a split second Friday night, Telly Turner thought about giving up.
But then the Albany High girls basketball coach saw the fight in her players’ eyes.
With first place in Region 1-AA on the line in the matchup against Brooks County, the Squaws overcame a 20-point deficit and nearly knocked off the Lady Trojans, who held on for a 55-50 victory.
The win kept Brooks County (12-3, 5-0) undefeated in region play, while Albany (8-6, 4-2) slipped into third place in the region behind Brooks County and Cook. Turner realized her team lost a golden opportunity to take control of its postseason destiny, but she was still impressed with the way the Squaws fought back in a game that looked all but over late in the third quarter.
“I was definitely happy with how they fought back,” Turner said. “The thought of giving up came across my mind. For them to fight back and to push, I mean ... so many people would have just gone down and put the third string in and rolled with it. But they fought back, and I hadn’t seen that this year.”
Herald Super 6er Chasity Mullins led the Squaws with 16 points and is already thinking about getting some revenge on the Lady Trojans, who have the inside track to host the region tournament.
“It’s going to be Brooks County and Albany High in the region championship, without a doubt,” Mullins said. “We should have won this game.”
The teams still have one more matchup Feb. 11 at Brooks County, but Lady Trojans coach Lamar Thomas also thought the idea of a Brooks-Albany region title game wasn’t too far-fetched.
“That would be an excellent game,” Thomas said. “I hope they make it. Me and coach Telly have always been good friends, and I think she does a great job with these girls.”
It was Turner’s speech to her girls midway through the third quarter that changed the game’s momentum. Down 35-15 with three minutes to play in the third quarter, Turner challenged her team not to be afraid to take the ball to the basket.
The Squaws responded with a 14-2 run to close the quarter and then pulled to within three points late in the game. For the final 11 minutes, Albany played inspired, emboldened and nearly flawless basketball, but it still wasn’t enough to make up for those first 21 minutes when the Squaws scored just 15 points and committed twice as many turnovers.
“The first half we were timid. We started off OK, but then we missed shots and our confidence went down,” Turner said. “At halftime I stressed the importance of taking it to the goal. … We just had to go back to what we do, which is go to the basket.”
Briana Williams scored 11 of her 13 points in the second half and got to the basket more than anybody, hitting drive after drive to pull closer to Brooks.
“It took everybody on the team to step up and do what we had to do,” Williams said about the comeback. “We had to play our game. We stepped up our defense a lot.”
With 30 seconds left in the game, Albany’s Lisa Hollinger hit a free throw for her only point of the night, but it brought the Squaws to within three points — the closest they had been since the first quarter. Albany had opportunities to draw even closer, but a series of turnovers in the final minute prevented the Squaws from completing the comeback.
“It didn’t surprise me at all that they came back,” Thomas said. “Albany has always been a good team, and they always play hard, especially here in front of their home crowd. They don’t want to embarrass themselves in front of their fans. They have a lot of pride.”
Brooks County senior Jasmine Mapp, who has already signed with Valdosta State, led the Lady Trojans with 20 points.
Also for Albany, Kairsha Jackson had eight points, NaKeidia Gervin scored five and Brianna Washington finished with four. The Squaws play again today at home against Mitchell County.
ALBANY BOYS 69, BROOKS COUNTY 52: Home sweet home.
That’s exactly how the Herald No. 1 Indians felt about hosting their first regular-season game of the season on their own court.
Albany was in its own gym during the U-Save-It Classic Boys Tournament in December but has played all of its other home games on neutral courts, and Indians coach Archie Chatmon said it made all the difference playing in the same gym the team practices in.
“We play so much better in this gym,” said Chatmon, whose Indians (12-2, 5-1) kicked off a three-game home stand with the 17-point victory that kept them tied for first in the Region 1-AA race. “Our hope is that this will cure some of the shooting woes that we have had over the last four or five ball games.”
The Indians jumped out to a 7-0 lead and led by double figures for much of the first half. Brooks pulled to within three points midway through the third quarter, but the Indians ended the game on a 31-17 run.
“They put a lot of pressure on us down the stretch, and we were able to step it up and get back to doing what we do,” Chatmon said. “Our intensity went up tremendously with about three minutes left in the third period. I thought that was the difference.”
Larry Sanford and Herald Super 6er Tim Pierce each scored 20 points, and Kenny Anderson chipped in eight points for the Indians.
“It was nice seeing Tim hit shots again,” Chatmon said. “I am hoping playing in this building will cure that. He has not shot the ball well the last three or four games. You can tell that his confidence was starting to wane. We are hoping this stand here at home will get his confidence going again.”
Albany hosts Mitchell County tonight and then Fitzgerald comes to town Tuesday.
Brooks County, which is now 1-4 in the region, was led by Tim Rose’s 14 points.