The Seminole County boys basketball team huddles at center court with their Region 1-A championship trophy Saturday night in Cuthbert after beating No. 1 seed Mitchell County in the final.
CUTHBERT — Kevin Godwin had to think about it. He stopped, then started again and still didn’t have the answer to the biggest question of the night for his Seminole County Indians, who knocked off the No. 2 team in Georgia on Saturday to win the Region 1-A title, beating Mitchell County 74-67.
Just when was the last time Seminole’s boys won a region title?
“We won one about 2001 or right in there,’’ Godwin said. “But that was a different region than this one.’’
Then he paused and smiled.
“But the last time we won this region? Oh, I don’t know,’’ Godwin said. “This region with the Terrell Counties and the Randolph-Clays — this powerhouse region? Oh, that has been many, many moons ago.’’
The moon, the sky and just about everything else belonged to Seminole on Saturday night in Randolph-Clay’s Joe Williams Gym, where one of the youngest teams in Georgia beat Mitchell with guts, composure and some ice-in-the-veins free throw shooting down the stretch.
Seminole County made 24 of 35 free throws on the night, including 7 of 10 in the final minutes to put the game away.
“They were men on the free throw line at the end of the game,’’ said Mitchell County coach Kenneth Harris, whose team had won 12 in a row and was ranked No. 2 in the Class A state rankings. Mitchell had already beaten Seminole County during the regular season twice, including a 55-44 win in overtime in Donalsonville and a 67-41 romp in Camilla on Feb. 1.
“It’s hard to beat a real good team three times,” Harris said. “Seminole played great. I give them all the credit. They hit their free throws, they hit their open shots. We had some opportunities, but they beat us. We played well enough to win against most teams, but they were just better in this game.
“Our kids played hard until the end. We’ll be alright. Maybe this was the slap we needed to get us back on track.’’
Mitchell was led by Daron Hodges, who scored 19 points, Herald Super 6er Jermaine Hatsfield, who scored 15, and Bruce Bryant, who dropped in 10.
Mitchell (24-4) will still probably get a chance to host the first round of the playoffs next week. The berths in the tournament and home courts will be decided by the region champions and state power rankings. The region champs and the highest-remaining ranked teams will make up the 16-team field.
Seminole (21-5) was ranked No. 4 in the last rankings and will automatically host a game next week after winning the region.
“This is huge for our program. It puts us on a level with the Randolph-Clays and Terrell Counties who have winning this region for years,’’ Godwin said. “It’s great for our fans and our community to be able to host a game in the playoffs. We’ve had a good basketball program in Donalsonville, but this puts us on a different level. It’s good to be back at that level.’’
And the Indians did it with a young team that starts three freshmen.
"It’s unbelievable,’’ Godwin said. “I’m so proud of them. I don‘t even have words for it. At the beginning of the year, I never thought in 100 years that we would win the region with three freshmen starting.”
Two of those freshman — Jordan Harris and Jamal Martin — each scored 19 points to lead the Indians, and both were clutch in the stretch. Martin scored eight points in the fourth quarter and Harris made 5 of 6 free throws in the final two minutes in the game.
"I was confident, not nervous,’’ Jordan Harris said. “I felt I had to do it for my team. It was crunch time. I had to make them.’’
Seminole came back from a shaky start, built a 10-point lead at halftime and hung on at the end of the third quarter after Mitchell had a 9-0 run to close to 52-50. Jordan Harris made a dazzling drive in traffic to make it 54-50 and then hit a jumper with 20 seconds left to finish the third with a 56-50 lead.
The Eagles closed to four points when Hodges hit a putback with 5:20 left to make it a 60-56 game, but Shavon Wiggins, a senior who finished with 15 points, nailed a 3 to up the lead to 63-57 — and Mitchell was never closer than six points again. The Indians sealed this one by hitting one crucial free throw after another to maintain their lead.
"It was unbelievable the way we played in the last four-five minutes of the game,’’ Godwin said. “We kept our composure. We ran our offense. We made our free throws. It was unbelievable how we held together.”
Godwin thought it might be a long night when Mitchell jumped out to a 10-3 lead, but he called a time out and got his kids to regroup, and they stormed back to take 19-18 lead into the second quarter.
“When we got the one-point lead at the end of the first quarter, I was telling them — I was screaming to them — that, ‘We got them by one! We can beat them!’ ”
His kids weren’t just hungry. They were starving.
“We wanted to beat them,’’ Martin said. “We were tired of losing to them. We wanted this. At the end of the game we were talking to each other (about how bad we wanted this on the court). We wanted it real bad.’’
Wiggins said there was no feeling like winning the title.
“When it was over, we went nuts, absolutely nuts,’’ he said. “It felt so good. It felt like we won the national championship.’’
And this is just the beginning.
The Seminole kids will be home in the playoffs ...