Archie Chatmon's Albany High boys team jumped back into first place in Region 1-AA on Friday night with a convincing win against Cook on the road.
ADEL — Did you hear that?
Did you hear that sound that cracked through the night late Friday evening, rumbling from Thomasville through Adel to Albany and Blakely?
It was the logjam in Region 1-AA being broken up, chipping away as the top four teams in the region head to the end of the regular season.
“It’s shaping up to be a war down the stretch,’’ said Albany High boys coach Archie Chatmon, whose team beat Cook, 54-42, on the road Friday to keep a share of first place in the region.
Albany’s win, coupled with Thomasville’s 58-34 revenge victory against Early County, leaves Albany and Thomasville tied for the top spot in the region with one loss each, and drops Cook and Early County two games back at 5-3. Last week, all four teams were tied for first with one loss.
Now for the stretch run — a run with the promise of a different (and better) Albany team as the season moves into February.
The Indians sure looked different Friday night. They needed a desperation 3-pointer from Larry Sanford to send the last meeting against Cook into overtime at 29-29. The Indians eventually won, 36-34 on a night when they had trouble finding the basket.
They went 3-for-21 from the field in the first half in the first meeting with Cook. On Friday, it was quite different. Albany went 3-for-4 in its first four shots of the game, and never relinquished the lead.
“It was two different games,’’ Cook coach Tommy Blackshear said. “Every game has its own personality, and this game’s personality was in their favor. They’re better than us offensively. They have more weapons. We led the first game throughout and they had to play at our tempo. This time they got the lead, and we had to play at their tempo. That was the difference.’’
Chatmon couldn’t have agreed more.
“That was the key,’’ he said. “You want to play your game. Playing behind (Blackshear’s team) is not a good thing. We did what we had to do. We got the lead and made them play catch-up. We hit those shots early and took the crowd out of it, and that was huge. It’s hard enough playing against the guys in the uniforms, you don’t want to have the crowd into the game. We did what we had to do. We got the lead and made them play catch-up.
Cook never did catch the Indians, who went 5-for-9 from the field in the first quarter and finished the game 17-of-34 (50 percent) from the field. Albany also outrebounded Cook and simply controlled the game.
The Hornets went to halftime, down 26-22, and closed to within three points a few times, but Albany just pulled away in the second half and led by as much as 16 when Sanford hit a drive with four minutes left to lift Albany to a 48-32 lead.
“Even when they hit us with a run, we maintained our composure,’’ Chatmon said.
They needed composure and a strong bench because Tyrone Culbreth and Emmanuel Byrd both got into foul trouble, but Chatmon’s co-captains Roscoe Byrd and Jontavious Morris, who will sign letters of intent on Wednesday to play football at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, stepped in and held their own and more against Cook and its big man Jerome Hill.
“We have a great combination with those four,’’ Chatmon said. “Everybody had to chip in to have a great defensive effort. Nobody is going to come into this gym and blitz this team. You’ve got to play great defense to beat them.’’
Herald Super 6er Tim Pierce led the Indians with 13 points and Sanford scored 12, including 11 in the second half. Kenny Anderson added nine points, while Emmanuel Byrd and Culbreth had seven points apiece. Culbreth scored all seven, and had three steals and two rebounds all in the first quarter. Hill led Cook with 20 points.
Albany is now 15-2 and 6-1 in the region. The Indians are ranked No. 1 in The Herald Fab 5 poll and No. 5 in the Class AA boys state poll. They have a huge weekend ahead of them when they travel to Thomasville on Friday and then play Early County in the Civic Center next Saturday.
“This game wasn’t anything like the first one,’’ Chatmon said, comparing the two games. “But it was just as scary.’’
ALBANY HIGH GIRLS 48, COOK 40: Albany High’s girls team survived a free throw marathon to finally put this one away on Friday night. The Squaws grabbed control of the game early. They took a 27-13 lead into halftime and were up 36-20 after three quarters. Then life as we know it stopped as the game came to a screeching halt when Cook took 18 free throws in a fourth quarter that seemed to last a lifetime.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen,’’ Albany High girls coach Telly Turner, whose team held Cook to 20 points in the first three quarters before Cook scored 20 in the fourth quarter. “They could have taken the game. For them to shoot 18 free throws in one quarter just shows you that the referees were calling the game differently in the fourth quarter than the rest of the game.’’
The win leaves Albany in second place in the Region 1-AA race at 5-2 behind Brooks County, which is unbeaten, but the Squaws look better and better.
“We are much better than we were a month ago,’’ Turner said. “I’m talking about a completely different team. When everybody takes on their role we’re capable of playing with, and beating anybody. When that happens it’s a beautiful picture.’’
Albany was led by Herald Super 6er Chasity Mullins, who scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and Briana Williams, who scored 15.
Albany plays Dougherty tonight at Radium Springs Middle School.