Randolph-Clay’s Adriana Blackmon goes up for the game-winning shot Saturday against Monroe. Blackmon hit the runner to give the Lady Red Devils a 56-54 win vs. the Herald No. 1 Lady Tornadoes. (email@example.com)
CUTHBERT — Her heart was racing, flying — almost as fast as she was, but maybe that’s what carried Adriana Blackmon in those final handful of seconds, those incredible, frenetic and fantastic seconds.
It was her heart.
That was the difference Saturday night when Blackmon made the steal of her career and drove the court, then faded and hung in the air, driving and pushing her will and the ball past two defenders to lift Randolph-Clay to a 56-54 win against Monroe in front of a packed house in the Joe Williams Gym.
“It was great, wonderful, great,’’ said Blackmon, a senior whose drive hit the bottom of the net with 2.1 seconds left to complete the win the Lady Red Devils believed all night would belong to them.
“My adrenaline was racing,” Blackmon said. “I kept thinking I’ve got to get the ball. I thought I was going to foul, but when I got the ball I could think of just one thing: Go! I just felt like I was going to score. And when I did, I just felt great. We beat Monroe, the No. 1 team in the Fab 5.’’
Monroe (12-4) has been ranked No. 1 in The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll from the beginning of the season, but Randolph-Clay, which was ranked fourth in the last poll two weeks ago, made its case for being No. 1.
The Lady Red Devils have lost to only Monroe, in their first game of the season, and to state powerhouse Greater Atlanta Christian, and they beat the same Carrollton team that beat Monroe in a Christmas tournament.
They’re 11-2 and rising.
“The best thing about this team is we haven’t peaked yet,” said Randolph-Clay coach Jennifer Acree, who has blossoming stars in freshman Kobi Thornton and her sister Brianna, a sophomore. They combined to block nine shots and grab 19 rebounds against Monroe.
“We knew we could beat Monroe,” Acree said. “They beat us in the first game of the year, but we didn’t have all our troops, and Kobi is just a freshman and that was her first game.’’
Kobi and the Lady Red Devils have come a long way since opening night, and controlled the game for most of the night. They led 44-35 early in the fourth quarter before Herald Super 6er KeyKey Price led a Monroe comeback that put the game in the hands of the Lady Tornadoes. Monroe went on a 14-1 run in which Price scored nine points to give Monroe a 49-45 lead, and Price, who finished with 18 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, made a big put-back with 1:20 left in the game to give Monroe a commanding 53-47 lead.
“I have to commend my girls. They held their composure,’’ said Acree, who told her kids they were going to win. “When we got down, I told them, ‘We still got this.’ I never had a doubt in my mind that we were going to win. We know what we have on this team, and we know we are never out of a game.’’
Randolph-Clay stormed back in the closing minute. Kanekia Washington, led the Lady Red Devils with 17 points, hit a free throw with 1:09 left and Kobi Thornton hit an inside shot with one minute left to close the gap to 53-51. Her sister, Brianna, hit a free throw with 43 seconds left to close to 53-52 before Monroe’s Davone Anduze hit a free throw to lift Monroe to a 54-52 lead with 23 seconds left.
Then it was all Blackmon.
She grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled, and hit both free throws to make it 54-54 with 16 seconds left, and Monroe, which had forced 22 turnovers to stay in the game, made its biggest turnover of the year when Blackmon made the steal and then sealed it.
“If I could choose one player to win the game for us, it would be Blackmon, because she is a four-year starter,” Acree said. “This is truly her team. She showed up.”
Kobi Thornton had nine points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots, and Brianna Thornton chipped in with six points, eight rebounds and three blocks, and Blackmon finished with 10 points, including the last four of the night for Randolph-Clay.
Monroe jumped out to a 5-0 lead, but that didn’t affect the Lady Red Devils, who promptly outscored Monroe with a 8-2 run and took a 8-7 lead on a pair of free throws from Blackmon.
That set the stage for the rest of the night as Randolph-Clay took a 17-14 lead into the second quarter, thanks to Kanekia Washington, who went 3-for-3 from the field and dropped in eight first-quarter points to give RC an early lift.
Monroe missed its first six shots of the second quarter but stayed in the game by forcing five turnovers and knotted things at 20-20 on a pair of free throws from Cedriana Waters with 3:02 left in the half.
“We need to learn to handle the ball better at the end,’’ Monroe coach Cheryl Cheeks said. “We turned it over four times and missed a free throw in the last (1:20) of the game. We have to learn to protect the ball at the end, especially when we are winning. We have to learn from our mistakes.”
But the Lady Red Devils answered with a 6-0 run as Brianna Thornton hit a put-back, Blackmon hit a pair of free throws and Washington hit an outside shot to finish the half with 12 points.
Jomekia Morine busted a trey to close to 26-23, and Monroe had a chance to make it closer but Kobi Thornton blocked Waters’ shot at the buzzer.
Then the real fun began in the wild second half.
“When Adriana stole the ball, I was just jumping for joy,” said Washington, who led the way with 17 points. “I was yelling, ‘Go Toot (Blackmon’s nickname)!’ It means a lot to win this game. We beat Monroe, the No. 1 team in the Fab 5. We should be No. 1 in the Fab 5 now!“