Randolph-Clay girls basketball coach Jennifer Acree called Saturday's win against Calhoun County a "statement game."
CUTHBERT — It was Senior Night at Randolph-Clay Saturday, but it felt a lot more like Sisters Night for the Lady Red Devils, who put an exclamation point on the regular season by beating rival Calhoun County, 70-54, in the final game of the season.
Yes, that’s the same Calhoun County that almost upset Randolph-Clay last month in Edison, where Whenekia Washington had to make a steal with 20 seconds left and her twin sister Kanekia made a shot with 8.3 seconds left to lift R-C to a 53-51 win.
If you liked the twins in that game, you had to love them Saturday as they combined to score 29 points. And that was only part of the story.
Brianna Thornton (15 rebounds and 11 points) and Kobi Thornton (19 points and 11 rebounds) dominated inside and combined to score 30 points and grab 26 rebounds. They blocked two shots each.
Sisters Night, indeed.
“It was payback time in this game,’’ said Whenekia, who hit 5-of-9 treys to finish with 15 points. Kanekia, a senior just like her sister, dropped in 14. “After that last game we said it would be payback time when we played them again. We did what we said we would do.’’
The Lady Red Devils never trailed.
“It was a statement game,’’ R-C coach Jennifer Acree said. “It had to be a statement game. That last game was so close, and we felt we did not show everything we’re capable of in that game.’’
The Herald No. 1 Lady Red Devils have been pretty capable all season.
They end the regular season at 23-2 and have won 22 of their last 23 games and 13 in a row.
Randolph-Clay finishes the regular season ranked No. 1 in the Class A public school state rankings, which means the Lady Red Devils could be home in the Joe Williams Gym until the Final Four. They host the Region 1-A tournament next week and play at 8:30 p.m., Wednesday against the winner of the Baker County-Webster game.
Calhoun, which was led Saturday by Herald Super 6er Brandi Buie, who poured in 26 points, will be the No. 3 seed and face Terrell County at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday in the Joe Williams Gym at Randolph-Clay.
“We just didn’t hustle,’’ said Calhoun County coach Cornelius Walker, explaining the difference in the two games against Randolph-Clay.
The Lady Red Devils were looking for revenge and more, because Acree wanted to finish on a high note to take some momentum into the playoffs.
She not only got a big game from everyone, including senior leader Adriana Blackmon (nine points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals), who does a little of everything for Randolph, running the floor and playing lockdown defense, but she got a signature game from Brianna Thornton, a 6-foot sophomore.
“I’m very proud of all of them, especially Brianna,’’ Acree said. “She has been playing really well the last two games. We’ve been waiting for her offense, and it’s coming at a good time.’’
Brianna agreed the timing is perfect.
“It’s playoff time,’’ she said. “It’s time to step up. If we make a mistake now we are out.’’
The two Thornton Towers (freshman Kobi is 6-1) started early and made life miserable for Calhoun County on defense. The Lady Cougars went 6-for-26 from the floor in the first half and trailed 26-17 at the break. Randolph opened up the second half with a 12-0 run and never looked back, building the lead to as much as 24 points (68-44).
“We have a lot faith in each other,’’ Kobi said of the sister act.
The next step is a run at a state title, and Saturday’s win against a rival and talented team from Calhoun County — a team that will be dangerous in the postseason — meant a lot to the Lady Red Devils.
“We knew before the game we would have to play hard,’’ Kanekia said. “We knew they would come out and play hard. We know it’s the playoffs now and we’re going to have to play hard every game. The records are 0-0 now.’’
Randolph-Clay boys hang on to beat rival Calhoun County, 71-66
CUTHBERT — Are you ready for the rubber game?
How about one with a little extra bounce?
That‘s what will happen Wednesday when Randolph-Clay and Calhoun County’s boys meet in the in the Region 1-A tournament.
And after Saturday’s wild and frenetic finish, you can bet neither team wants to see the other in the playoffs.
“It’s tough. They are a very tough opponent,’’ said Randolph-Clay boys coach Michael Hoffpauir, whose Red Devils hung on to beat Calhoun, 71-66, in front of a standing-room-only crowd at the Joe Williams Gym that spilled out into the upper hallways and lobby of the gym.
It was packed.
And so was the finish, which saw Calhoun storm back from a 13-point deficit in the final minutes to close to 69-66 before Herald Super 6er Gary McRae put the game away with two free throws with 10 seconds on the clock.
McRae finished with 18 points, and Ryan Wiggins (12 points) and Cornelius Bennett (nine points) all had their moments for the Red Devils, and it took all that and more to hold off Calhoun and Quenton Taylor and Sherrod Williams, who led the comeback.
Taylor finished with 29 points and Williams dropped in 15, including nine in the final three. Taylor and Williams combined to score 16 of Calhoun’s final 19 points as they simply refused to give way to R-C, and it was Williams’ lightning-quick drive that closed the score to 69-66 with 20 seconds left.
But Bennett found McRae on a fastbreak and McRae was hammered going for the basket, and an intentional foul was called. He nailed both free throws and the Red Devils took the ball and held on for the win. Calhoun trailed 57-44 with 5:30 left in the game and outscored Randolph, 22-12 before McRae hit his two big free throws.
It was the sixth win in a row for Randolph-Clay (15-10), which is 13th in the state rankings that will determine berths in the playoffs.
“We’re battled tested,’’ Hoffpauir said. “We’ve had an extremely tough schedule, playing bigger teams (and bigger schools).
“It’s just another win,‘’ he said of the close game. “It helps in the power rankings, and it gives us momentum going into the region tournament.’’
Calhoun (17-8) beat Randolph-Clay in Edison earlier in a game that came down to the final shot, and the two rivals, who always play each other to the end, will meet again in the region tournament at Mitchell County at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday in the quarterfinal round of the tournament. The region winner will advance to the state playoffs, and the rest of the 16-team field will come from the state rankings. Calhoun County is ranked 19th in the state power rankings.
The semifinals and finals will be held at Randolph-Clay, which makes Wednesday’s game even more significant for the Red Devils, who are the only team in the region with a win against top-seeded Mitchell County.