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LOCAL COLLEGE ROUNDUP: Darton gets top seed, achieves highest NJCAA ranking ever

The Darton women's basketball team poses after crushing East Georgia State on Wednesday to clinch the No. 1 seed in next week's Region XVII tournament and the program's first regular season title since 2009. (David Mann/Special to The Herald)

The Darton women's basketball team poses after crushing East Georgia State on Wednesday to clinch the No. 1 seed in next week's Region XVII tournament and the program's first regular season title since 2009. (David Mann/Special to The Herald)

Former Albany star, Herald Super 6er Mullins returns home with East Georgia in tough loss to Darton

ALBANY — Former Albany High star and Herald Super 6er Chasity Mullins wrapped up her freshman season at East Georgia State College with Wednesday’s 81-38 loss to Darton.

The 2012 Albany High grad scored seven points and grabbed eight rebounds to conclude a season in which she was asked to do about everything for a Lady Bobcats team that was depleted by injuries.

“She has made a good transition and has learned a lot this season,” East Georgia coach Brad Childers said. “We only have about six or seven kids, so she has had to play four or five positions for me. It’s been a little unfair for her and unfair to all of my kids, but she has worked hard.”

Mullins finished second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.1 points per game and shooting 36 percent from the floor.

Like most of her teammates, the grueling season took its tool on the Albany native, who started 25 of 27 games this year.

“She was doing really well earlier in the season, but she has struggled with her shot lately,” Childers said. “It’s a long year for a freshman, and she is averaging 35 minutes a game. It’s tough for my kids. They have hit a wall and are just trying to finish the best they can.”

ALBANY — Can anybody stop the Darton Lady Cavs right now?

Freshman point guard Jasmine Wilson and her teammates don’t think so.

And after Wednesday night’s 81-38 win against Region XVII foe East Georgia State, it’s hard to argue with the Lady Cavs, who have won six in a row and 16 of their last 17 games.

Hours after moving up to a program-best No. 12 in the NJCAA Division I Top 25 national poll, Darton (25-3, 17-2) locked up the No. 1 seed in next week’s Region XVII tournament with the win, which gave the Lady Cavs their first regular season region championship since 2009, as well as the first under second-year coach Lea Henry.

The Lady Cavs, who are now 13-0 at home this season, are the hottest team in the state — and possibly the nation — right now, but none of this success surprises Wilson, who had 11 points, 10 assists and four steals Wednesday and was one of eight Darton players to score at least six points.

“I really feel like we can’t be beat when we play like we did (Wednesday),” said Wilson, a former star at Northside, Warner Robins. “As long as we are playing our game, we can win every game.”

The Lady Cavs aren’t just winning games, they are crushing teams, winning by an average of 17 points per game. Wednesday’s 43-point victory was the 14th win this season by 30 or more points and the third by at least 40.

“This is a big accomplishment,” Henry said of winning the regular-season title. “This was a big deal for us. We got a 20-win season and checked that off, and we wanted to win the regular season and get home-court advantage for the tournament. So now we can check that off.”

It didn’t take long for Darton to put a check mark in the win column Wednesday when they went on a 50-8 run midway through the game and held East Georgia State (7-21, 3-16) scoreless for over 10 minutes during a stretch spanning both halves.

“Seriously?” East Georgia coach Brad Childers said when asked to comment about the game. “Darton’s record speaks for itself. They are the best team out there.”

They are the only team in the state ranked in the national poll, which they improved one spot in after going 3-0 in the past week.

“We are proud of the ranking and anxiously await the polls each week to see where we are,” Henry said. “It’s good that we are being recognized in that manner, but at the same time you have to keep winning — or you won’t stay there.”

The Lady Cavs’ winning recipe has been pretty simple this season: lock-down defense, transition offense and easy buckets.

It took a little while to find their stride Wednesday, but once they did there was no looking back. Darton led by just six points with 8:06 left in the first half but outscored the Lady Bobcats, 57-20, the rest of the way.

Chanteniece Fann finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and three blocks to lead Darton, while Kadayasha Jones added 13 points and 6-foot-6 Crystal Reed had nine points and six rebounds.

In a game where the starters sat for much of the second half, Vanessa Akra and Tamarah Fisher came off the bench to score eight and six points, respectively. Reigning region XVII Player of the Year Michelle Mitchell, who entered the game averaging a team-best 16.6 points, only scored six points but grabbed a game-high nine rebounds.

“If Michelle isn’t scoring 20, we have a lot of other weapons,” Henry said. “That’s what is good about this team, it takes the pressure off of her so she can just play her game. We didn’t need her as much (Wednesday). There are going to be other games where she knows we are going to need her more.”

With Michelle scoring her season low, Fann, Wilson and the rest of the Lady Cavs gave East Georgia all it could handle. Darton will enter the region tournament as the clear-cut favorite and will host every game as long as it keeps winning — pressure that is nothing new to the Lady Cavs.

“There has been pressure on us the whole season,” Fann said. “Everybody has been coming after us. There’s just even more pressure now, but we know what we have to do. We know we have to compete even harder.”

Darton closes out the regular season Saturday at home against region No. 2 Georgia Highlands in a game that — regardless of the outcome — won’t affect the tournament seeding for either team.

Lady Rams snap skid, split with Columbus State

ALBANY --- A day after getting swept by nationally-ranked No. 1 Valdosta State, the Albany State softball team bounced back with one of its biggest wins in years, knocking off No. 25 Columbus State in the second game of Wednesday’s doubleheader.

The Lady Rams (3-9) lost the opener, 9-1, in five innings to extend their losing streak to nine games, but ASU rallied behind sophomore pitcher Alexa Lopez in the nightcap to win, 6-0.

Lopez threw all seven innings, allowed five hits and struck out seven against a Columbus State team that started the season ranked No. 10 in the nation.

Ambrionna Atkism hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning and finished 2-for-4 at the plate for the Lady Rams, who racked up seven hits in the second game and watched Columbus State commit six errors.

In the opener, Sierra Gaines got the Lady Rams’ only hit, while Adrienne Morris scored in the first inning on a Columbus State fielding error.

Atkism was the losing pitcher, allowing nine runs and 10 hits and striking out four.

ASU plays again Friday at home against Clark-Atlanta in a conference-opening double header.

Albany Tech hoops splits with Georgia Highlands

DALLAS --- Former Bainbridge star Melzie Johnson scored a career-high 31 points Wednesday to lead the Albany Tech men to a 77-56 win against Georgia Highlands.

The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Titans (9-20, 5-14), who are 10th in the Region XVII standings and have already been eliminated from playoff contention.

Tony Fears added 15 points and six assists, and Nouhoum Boucoum finished with 10 points and five rebounds for Albany Tech, which led 30-15 at halftime and then pulled away in the second half.

GEORGIA HIGHLANDS WOMEN 70, ALBANY TECH 56: Lashay Lettingham finished with 19 points and six rebounds for the Lady Titans, who were already locked in to the No. 8 seed in next week’s region playoffs regardless of the outcome of Wednesday’s game against No. 2 seed Georgia Highlands.

The Lady Titans (14-15, 7-12) also got 14 points from Kierrica Spencer. Both Albany Tech teams wrap up the regular season Saturday at Georgia Perimeter.