Randolph-Clay’s Kobi Thornton skies to the rim against the Mitchell County defense Tuesday night during their GHSA Class A Elite 8 game in Cuthbert. Thornton, a freshman, scored 21 in the Lady Red Devils’ win. (Larry G. Williams/Special to The Herald)
CUTHBERT — Whenekia Washington knows her math.
“We’re two steps away, two big steps,’’ she said after dropping in 16 points Tuesday night to help Randolph-Clay beat Mitchell County, 72-55, and reach the Class A Final Four for the first time since 2009.
The Herald and state No. 1 Class A Lady Red Devils have been high-stepping all year long and won their 18th game in a row Tuesday to improve to 28-2. They have also won 28 of their last 29, but no one is remotely satisfied.
They want it all.
“We have to take the last two steps, Washington said. “We want to win the state title.’’
R-C now meets Wilkinson County at 7 p.m. at Fort Valley State on Friday, one win away from the title game.
“We’re going to the valley,’’ said R-C coach Jennifer Acree, who will be taking her third team from Randolph-Clay in six years to the Final Four.
“This one is different,’’ Acree said. “This one is sweeter because these seniors have been with me for four years. They’re mine. And it’s sweeter because they had a losing record when they were sophomores and came back.’’
She was beaming afterward.
“We’re going to the valley, and the Lord is always at his best in the valley,’’ she said mixing a little scripture with the exuberance of reaching the Final Four.
She just hopes her point guard, Adriana Blackmon, is healthy on Friday. Blackmon took a hard fall when she was knocked over with 2:09 left in the third quarter and suffered a bruised knee. She came back in the game in the fourth and helped the Red Devils put the game away.
With Blackmon out, Mitchell went on an 11-3 run to close to 53-44, but Blackmon came back in a flurry, with three textbook passes inside to Kobi Thornton, two steals and a putback of her own to lift R-C to a 61-48 lead with 3:53 left in the game. That’s when Mitchell star and Herald Super 6er A’Miracle Jones fouled out. Mitchell lost both its stars — Jones, who led the way with 22 points, and Bre’Ka Holton, who also fouled out.
“I think when A’Miracle and Bre’Ka fouled out the rest of the team gave up,” Mitchell interim coach Wendy Whitlock said. “We gave a great effort, a great effort. We might have lost (to the eventual state champions), but it would have been great to have moved on.’’
This was the second year in a row Mitchell has made it to the Elite 8, and Jones and Holton are both juniors. Mitchell finished the season 21-9 and three of those losses were to Randolph-Clay, including an embarrassing 73-46 defeat in the Region 1-A title game just 11 days ago. This game was a different story.
Even after R-C jumped out to a 13-2 lead, Mitchell fought back, and R-C led only 31-23 at halftime. Mitchell closed to four points when Jones, who had 14 rebounds, hit a putback to make it a 31-27 early in the third. But Randolph-Clay had an answer for every Mitchell run.
“We knew they were going to come in here and play hard,’’ Blackmon said. “But we really wanted to beat them (again). We knew they would bring their best game. But we knew what was on the line.’’
Blackmon is the heart and soul of Randolph-Clay’s team. The senior point guard does a little of everything, and even after being injured she still finished with seven points, eight assists, five steals, and eight rebounds. She limped out of the gym with ice on her knee, and said, “I’ll be ready. I’ll be ready Friday. It’s just a bruise. I’ll be ready to play.’’
Randolph-Clay was more than ready on Tuesday. Kobi Thornton led the way with 21 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots. She scored 12 points in the fourth to put the game away. Her sister Brianna scored 12 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, blocked two shots and made four steals. Washington bagged three 3s to finish with 16 points, and her twin sister, Kanekia finished with 10.
Ja’Shara Burns scored seven for Mitchell and Deandra Hall finished with six points. Holton scored four for the Lady Eagles, who lose only two seniors.