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Red-hot Lady Red Devils finish season strong, get back on top of Region 1-A

With their home fans in the background of Joe Williams Gym, the Randolph-Clay girls smile and pose for a picture with their Region 1-A trophy after whipping Mitchell County on Saturday night in Cuthbert in the finals.

With their home fans in the background of Joe Williams Gym, the Randolph-Clay girls smile and pose for a picture with their Region 1-A trophy after whipping Mitchell County on Saturday night in Cuthbert in the finals.

CUTHBERT — No one needs to motivate the Randolph-Clay Lady Red Devils.

These kids, who dream of bringing home a state title to R-C, are motivated enough, so you can imagine what happened this week when the girls on the team talked about playing Mitchell County.

“We didn’t like their comments,’’ said Adriana Blackmon, the senior point guard and heart of the Randolph-Clay team. “They said we were overrated. That made me mad. I didn’t like it. We had to make a statement. We had to show them up on the court.’’

They did, and they did it with an exclamation point.

Randolph-Clay not only won the Region 1-A title Saturday night in their own Joe Williams Gym, but the Lady Red Devils beat Mitchell County, 73-47, in a game that was so lopsided that the mercy-rule was used and the teams played a six-minute fourth quarter. It was 61-30 at the end of three.

“We wanted to reclaim our region,’’ said Randolph-Clay coach Jennifer Acree, who won her fourth region title in six years, beating the defending region champs from Mitchell. “It’s our region because we won it.’’

Acree, whose team is ranked No. 1 in the Class A state rankings and the top team in The Herald Fab 5 Poll, wanted something else from the game.

“When you play a region title game and are getting ready to go into the playoffs, you want to make a statement,’’ she said. “We didn’t just run through the teams in our region. We beat the teams in our region. When you play in a region game, you have to put a stamp on the game and let everybody know we are on a mission.’’

That stamp was pretty indelible Saturday.

This is what you need to know about the Randolph-Clay kids: With a 51-22 lead midway through the third quarter, Whenekia Washington went diving for a loose ball on a possible turnover, and she went so hard for the ball and was so determined that her momentum carried her into the third row of Joe Williams Gym.

You don’t see that in lopsided games, but that’s what Randolph-Clay is all about — everyone going all out all the time.

By the way, Washington can shoot a little, too.

She hit seven 3-pointers, including six in the first half alone, to all but put the game away herself. In fact, she went to halftime with 19 points, while Mitchell had just 17 — as a team — at the break. Washington hit just one more 3 and finished with 24 points, going 7 of 13 from beyond the arc.

She had no idea she had made seven treys.

“I don’t count them,’’ said Washington, who hit nine 3-pointers in a game earlier this season. “I just knew I had to make up for last night (when I didn’t shoot well in the region semifinal win). I was focused.’’

Acree’s kids have been focused all year. The region title victory was their 26th win in their last 27 games. They’ve won 17 in a row and are now 26-2 for the season as they enter the Class A state playoffs Friday as the No. 1 seed team in Georgia.

Mitchell County (19-9) will also be in the playoffs, but everyone will have to wait until the final Class A state rankings are announced Tuesday. The Lady Eagles were ranked No. 10 in the last poll. Only the region champs and Top 16 teams make the playoffs. Mitchell lost to Randolph-Clay, 66-45 on Dec. 1 to open the season. The Lady Eagles, who reached the Elite 8 last year, should be a force again in the state playoffs.

They just ran into a very determined Randolph-Clay team Saturday.

Washington’s twin sister, Kanekia, poured in 16 points, and Blackmon had another Blackmon-like-game. She simply does a little of everything every night. She scored 11 points, grabbed seven rebounds, made four steals, handed out five assists and ran the floor. When Mitchell went to a press to try to get back in the game, Blackmon simply weaved her way through it, and Mitchell called off the press.

The Thornton sisters — Brianna, a 6-foot sophomore, and Kobi, a 6-1 freshman — combined to grab 17 rebounds, and blocked five shots. Kobi blocked four of those, including one monster block and a tiny baby block that came after she ran into foul trouble. Kobi finished with 10 points, and Brianna dropped in six. She sat out part of the first half with two fouls.

“It got to me (when I got into foul trouble),’’ she said. “Because I wanted to play.”

It didn’t matter, because the two Thornton Towers presented a mountain for Mitchell, which had an horrendous night shooting. The Lady Eagles made just nine baskets from the floor during the first three quarters, going 9-for-46 from the floor (19.5 percent). Mitchell’s backups went 7-for-15 in the fourth quarter. Herald Super 6er A’Miracle Jones finished with 11 points and six rebounds to lead the Lady Eagkes.

The Randolph-Clay girls didn’t jump, hug and dance off the floor after the win. Instead, they took it in stride, smiled with the trophy, paused for snapshots and then headed to the locker room, looking for the next step.

“We didn’t celebrate,’’ Whenekia Washington said. “It’s not the end yet.’’