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Darton women dispatch of local rival Albany Tech in region tourney opener

Darton's Michelle Mitchell, left, drives around Albany Tech's Richanna Jackson of Bainbridge during Tuesday's game.

Darton's Michelle Mitchell, left, drives around Albany Tech's Richanna Jackson of Bainbridge during Tuesday's game.

ALBANY — Darton coach Lea Henry went into the locker room at halftime with one message.

"(Henry) was telling us that we have to start running the ball and push it to get good looks," Darton freshman Jasmine Wilson said. "She said that we are a running team, and we can't let Albany Tech slow our rhythm down."

Darton came out running in the second half of Tuesday's Region XVII tournament opening-round game, and the Albany Tech Lady Titans couldn't keep up.

After leading by only 10 points at halftime, the No. 1 seed Lady Cavs pulled away in the second half and beat No. 8 Albany Tech, 63-39, to improve to 15-0 at home and advance to Friday's semifinals against South Georgia Tech.

The Lady Cavs, who are ranked No. 12 in the nation and winners of 18 of their last 19 games, closed with a 27-17 run and overcame a night where they shot just 42 percent from the floor.

"We were more aggressive in the second half taking shots, putting the ball on the floor and pulling up and shooting jumpers," said Henry, who was named the Region XVII Coach of the Year on Monday. "Our kids fought hard tonight. We know that there are going to be moments when we struggle to score, but we keep defending."

Wilson scored 14 points and dished out 10 assists to lead the Lady Cavs, while Kadayasha Jones (14 points), Region XVII Player of the Year Michelle Mitchell (13 points, 13 rebounds) and Chanteniece Fann (7 points, 11 rebounds) also had big games for Darton (27-3).

"Jasmine really stepped up when we were struggling to score and made some big shots," said Henry, whose team struggled to score against an Albany Tech defense that played a half-court zone and dared Darton to knock down shots from the perimeter. "When they are packing it in like that, she knows she has to step up and score. I thought she did a nice job of keeping us moving and keeping us going."

The Lady Cavs held Albany Tech to two points in the first 10 minutes and never trailed in the game, leading by as many as 27 late in the second half. The Lady Titans (15-16), who were led by Lashay Lettingham's 13 points, shot just 19 percent from the floor and were 3-for-18 from 3-point range.

"(Henry) made some great adjustments late in the game," Albany Tech coach Kenneth Williams said, "and the difference in the game was that (Darton) executed, and we didn't. Hats off to them. They are one heck of a team."

And they are having one heck of a season.

Darton has only lost once since Dec. 8 and has reeled off eight wins in a row for their best season in school history.

And the Lady Cavs aren't done yet.

"We have to step it up now and can't let up," Wilson said. "Every game is do-or-die now, so we have to keep pushing and go hard."