Darton point guard Cedricka Sweeting dribbles past Andrew College’s Albany Bowen during Saturday’s Region XVII game. Sweeting and the Lady Cavs ended the game on a 26-7 run to put away the Lady Tigers. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)
ALBANY — Andrew College was on the verge of another milestone victory in what is turning into one of the best seasons in program history for the Lady Tigers.
But then Darton’s Shanea Armbrister took over.
The Lady Cavs’ star freshman scored nine unanswered points midway through the second half on Saturday to reclaim the lead and spark a 26-7 scoring run that ended in a 51-33 victory for Darton.
Armbrister, a freshman guard from the Bahamas and former Georgia commit, had only four points at halftime, but she took control of the game in the final 20 minutes and finished with a game-high 19 points.
“The game was too close, and I had to do something,” Armbrister said. “I was determined to score in the second half. My team needed me to get stuff going.”
Armbrister turned the game around in a heartbeat, knocking down three straight 3-pointers to stretch Darton’s lead to 12 points with 9:07 left. She scored 15 points in the final 14 minutes to help the Lady Cavs (10-5, 3-3) snap a two-game skid and bring their record back to .500 in Region XVII.
“That really made the difference when (Armbrister) stepped up and knocked down some big shots for us,” Darton coach Lea Henry said. “That’s the type of player she is, and that’s the way she has to be for us. We really missed her in the first half when she picked up her second foul.”
While Armbrister got hot down the stretch, Kadayasha Jones carried the Lady Cavs in the first half with eight of her 14 points before halftime. Former Lee County star DaQueena Moore added nine points for Darton, while Iesha Bonner chipped in five points.
The Lady Tigers were led by Thomasville native Chelsea McIntyre and Ballard, who scored eight and seven points, respectively.
Entering this season, Andrew (3-6, 2-5) hadn’t won a Region XVII game since 2011, but the Lady Tigers already have two region wins this season against Georgia Perimeter and Chattahoochee Tech and were knocking on the door of a third Saturday at Cavalier Arena.
Darton jumped out to a 9-2 lead, but Andrew inched its way back into the game and then took a 26-25 lead with 14:41 left in the game on a field goal from Aliya Ballard.
“It was exciting, because obviously Andrew College hasn’t quite been known for their sports,” second-year Andrew coach Samantha Paradise said. “Just being able to compete for that moment against an institution like Darton — for all of our hard work that we have been putting in, it looked good.”
Andrew’s lead lasted 15 seconds before Armbrister snagged it back with her first points of the second half. Five minutes and three nothing-but-net 3-pointers from Armbrister later, and the Lady Cavs were back up by double figures.
And while it was Armbrister that put the Lady Cavs ahead, it was defense that made sure they stayed in front. After taking their one-point lead, the Lady Tigers were scoreless for the next seven minutes and only scored seven points in the final 14 minutes of the game.
It was exactly what Henry was looking for after challenging her team following a poor defensive effort against Albany Tech on Wednesday when the Lady Cavs allowed 39 second-half points in a 69-67 loss.
“Our energy was better on defense,” Henry said. “I thought we affected what they were trying to do, and that’s what we had not been doing. We had just been allowing people to do what they want to do offensively.”
Turns out, the Lady Cavs had a little added motivation to work out the kinks on defense after being hit with some extra conditioning and running after tough losses to South Georgia Tech and Albany Tech.
“I had not been happy for the last week, and we have had some really tough practices,” Henry said. “We have challenged them very hard.”
Armbrister said the new practice routine was on her mind as she stepped on the court Saturday.
“There are consequences now. We ran like crazy (at practice), so we had to get it right,” she said. “(Mistakes) add up during 40 minutes, so we had to limit that. It’s OK to run, but running for your mistakes makes you think, ‘OK, we can do this. We don’t have to be making these mistakes.’ ”
The Lady Cavs will look to carry that mistake-free attitude into Wednesday’s home game against East Georgia State, while Andrew is off until Jan. 5 when it plays West Georgia Tech.
ALBANY TECH MEN 64, SOUTH GEORGIA TECH 61: Loren Hall hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 50 seconds left and then knocked down two free throws with 18 seconds on the clock to lift the Titans to a key Region XVII victory.
Albany Tech (7-7, 2-4 Region XVII) was led by Brandon Quarterman, who scored a game-high 18 points. Lafonzo Smith added 12 points and six rebounds, Hall scored 11 points and Kymon Woods finished with nine points and 11 rebounds.
The Titans, who snapped a four-game losing streak with the win, play again Jan. 4 at College of Central Florida, which is ranked 19th in the nation in the latest NJCAA coaches’ poll.
GSW MEN 62, CLAYTON STATE 56: The nationally ranked No. 21 Georgia Southwestern Hurricanes improved to 10-0 and 2-0 in the Peach Belt Conference thanks to a second half where they outscored host Clayton State 35-26.
The Hurricanes, who are off to their best start in program history since joining the NCAA, were led by Kevin Burnell’s 15 points, while Alan Arnett (12 points), Johathan Brooks (11 points) and Daryl Davis (10 points) also scored in double figures.
GSW trailed 30-27 at halftime but took the lead with pair of Arnett free throws with 13:55 left and never looked back. The Hurricanes will look to continue their undefeated start with a non-conference game Thursday at home against Fort Valley State.
CLAYTON STATE WOMEN 87, GSW 65: The Lady Hurricanes fell to 4-4 overall and 0-2 in the PBC with a 21-point loss to seventh-ranked Clayton State.
Shanedra Lockett scored 17 points to lead GSW, while Jasmine McSwain added 14 points, and Tiara Thompson finished with 12 points.
The Lady Hurricanes play again Monday at Converse College.