ALBANY — Albany Tech point guard Quiondra Darrisaw is listed as 5-foot-3 on the Lady Titans’ roster — a generous height for the Dublin native who is actually 5-foot even.
On Wednesday, she played like a giant.
Darrisaw took control of Wednesday’s Region XVII game against Darton State College, hit the go-ahead free throws with 3.3 seconds left and then made a victory-clinching steal in the final moments to lead the Lady Titans to a 69-67 win.
Albany Tech (8-5, 3-2) fell behind by as many as nine points in the first half and trailed for much of the second, but then it turned into the Quiondra Darrisaw Show in the final 10 minutes when she scored 11 of her game-high 24 points.
“I’m a small player, but I’m big on the court,” Darrisaw said.
She stepped up biggest in the clutch moments Wednesday, hitting shots early in the game to prevent Darton from pulling away and then giving Albany Tech its first second-half lead with 7:17 left with a step-back, fade-away jumper from the free throw line to put the Lady Titans in front, 53-52.
Albany Tech held the lead for much of the final five minutes until Darton’s Iesha Bonner tied the game at 67 with 9.9 seconds left. On Albany Tech’s final possession, however, Darrisaw drove the lane and drew a foul.
A missed free throw 20 seconds earlier went through her mind as she stepped to the line.
“I was nervous,” said Darrisaw, who also had five assists and two steals. “It was tied, and everyone was saying, ‘no pressure, no pressure.’ But I was standing at the line shaking.”
Albany Tech coach Kenneth Williams knew he had the perfect player on the line to help his team snap a two-game losing streak and beat their city-rivals for the first time since coach Lea Henry took over the Lady Cavs in 2011.
“At that moment, I had all the confidence in the world that she was going to knock them down,” Williams said.
Shanea Armbrister led Darton with 22 points, but the star freshman was shut down by Albany Tech’s defense down the stretch and scored just two points in the final nine minutes.
No one was able to take control of the game quite like Darrisaw.
“Right now we are still searching for leadership and still looking for somebody to step up and be the stopper,” Henry said. “We are a team right now that doesn’t have great identity.”
The Lady Cavs (9-5, 2-3 Region XVII), who have three former Division I commits in their starting lineup, have unexpectedly struggled early and are surprisingly in the middle of the pack in the region standings.
Henry, however, believes her team can be special as it goes deeper into the season.
“I just think we haven’t found it yet,” she said. “But we will get it. I think we are close. Everybody wants to beat us. We had a great year last year, and these kids who are new players for us don’t know that. Everybody comes at us hard because of the success we had last year, and our kids need to be prepared for that.”
Albany Tech jumped out to an early 10-4 lead four minutes into the game, but the Lady Cavs rallied back and went on a 13-0 run to take a 17-10 lead. Armbrister paced Darton early with nine points during that run, but Albany Tech didn’t stay down for long and rode guard Toni Grier, who finished with 20 points and eight rebounds, in the closing minutes of the first half and even took a 30-29 lead with 1:50 left in the half on an Ashley Towns 3-pointer.
Darton led by as many as six points in the second half, but each time the Lady Cavs stretched their lead to six, Darrisaw was there with a clutch shot.
“That’s one of the things she can do,” Williams said. “We have been talking to her a little more about taking control. When she plays well, we play well. She is the catalyst right now that gets everything going. She is just a freshman, but right now she is demanding leadership of her team, and that’s what you want from a point guard.”
It was a game Williams felt his team needed to win to stay in the thick of the Region XVII standings, where the Lady Titans are now tied for fourth with Middle Georgia.
“I told the young ladies that we needed to come out and play hard,” Williams said. “Everybody knows Darton is always going to be tough. We played them close all game and then it came down to the end, and we showed a lot of heart. I’m really proud of them.”
Darrisaw and Grier were the only Lady Titans to score in double figures, while each of Darton’s five starters finished with at least 10 points. Bonner and former Lee County star DaQuenna Moore each scored 12 points, while Cedricka Sweeting and Kadayasha Jones both netted 10 points. Moore also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds, while Sweeting dished out eight assists.