Darton point guard Jasmine Wilson dribbles up the court Wednesday against East Georgia State. It was Wilson’s first time on the court this season, and she led the Lady Cavs with 25 points. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)
ALBANY — For two months, Jasmine Wilson sat on the end of the bench and waited.
Darton’s sophomore guard and one of the stars of last year’s record-breaking Lady Cavs team could only sit and watch for the first 15 games of the season as she sat on the sidelines academically ineligible.
On Wednesday, the wait was finally over.
Wilson returned to the court in grand fashion with a game-high 25 points to lead the Lady Cavs to a 78-28 win against East Georgia State. The blowout victory vaulted Darton (11-5, 4-3) ahead of East Georgia (7-7, 3-3) in the Region XVII standings and sent a message to the rest of the region that the Lady Cavs are a special team with Wilson back in the lineup.
“It felt like last year,” Darton coach Lea Henry said. “It was the first time all year that it felt like last year with the defensive energy and the way we were scoring off our defense.”
Wilson looked like she hadn’t missed a beat from last season when she averaged 9.5 points and 6.5 assists to help the Lady Cavs win a school-record 30 games.
“I was just ready to play with my team again,” Wilson said. “(Sitting out the first semester) made me a better player. I noticed that I matured a lot and had faith in my team. I knew everything would be all right. I knew I would eventually be back on the court again.”
Both teams were scoreless for the first 2:19 before Wilson entered the game, and on the first possession with her on the court she buried a 3-pointer from the corner. She scored 16 points in the first half and finished the game 8-for-13 from the field and 4-for-6 from long range with six rebounds and three assists.
And no one was happier to have her back on the court than her roommate and best friend Kadayasha Jones, also a returning starter from last season.
“It was a boost for all of us,” said Jones, who finished with nine points. “I know it was a great boost for me because we had such a great chemistry from last year.
“She was frustrated and everything, but we talked to her and let her know that everything would be OK. Now she is playing, and she is on the court doing her thing.”
It was a statement game for the Lady Cavs, who are finally back in the top half of the Region XVII standings after falling below .500 in the region with losses to Albany Tech, South Georgia Tech and Central Georgia Tech.
On Wednesday they looked like the Lady Cavs who were unbeaten on their home court last season and won the school’s first region title in more than a decade.
“We didn’t like the fact that (East Georgia) was a game up on us (in the region standings),” Henry said. “That didn’t feel right. Nothing against their team, but it didn’t feel right for us.
“Hopefully this can be a good turning point for us.”
It was Darton’s fourth win by 50 or more points this season but the first time the Lady Cavs have looked that strong against a team from their own region.
Wilson alone had more points than East Georgia in the first half, and then she scored on three consecutive possessions in the opening minutes of the second half in the span of 50 seconds to lift Darton to a 38-point lead with 16:51 left in the game.
“I am really proud of her for staying patient and staying positive, and I thought you could see that she made such a difference for our team,” Henry said about Wilson’s return. “She gets everybody going. Not only does she score, but she defends and gets out and gets steals. I just thought the energy on the floor and the tempo were different and better.”
Cedricka Sweeting and Iesha Bonner added 13 and 11 points, respectively, for the Lady Cavs, who had their highest-scoring region game of the season. Star guard Shanae Armbrister added nine points and a game-high nine rebounds, and former Lee County star DaQuenna Moore added four points and five rebounds.
East Georgia was led by Cyairra Hill and Tiara Baker, who each had seven points, while former Albany High star and Herald Super 6er Chasity Mullins added three points.
The Lady Cavs play again Friday at home against South Crescent Tech, a non-region opponent they have already defeated twice this season by a combined 152 points.