Albany's Tyler Cheese scored 17 points in Tuesday's win.
ALBANY --- Albany High and Crisp County were headed in different directions Tuesday.
One coach said his team was “growing up.” The other called his team “soft and gutless.”
Indians’ head coach Archie Chatmon had the smile on his face after a 67-52 win over Crisp County in Region 1-AAAA play, more than a month after his team fell 53-45 to Crisp.
Cougars’ head coach Terry Smith, on the other hand, was soul-searching.
“We’re soft and we’re gutless right now,” Smith said after giving credit to Albany High’s play. “It all stems back and it’s a direct reflection on me. We won’t win another game unless we get some heart.”
The similarities between the two run deep – both went to the Elite Eight last season, Albany in Class AA and Crisp in Class AAA, and both lost their main scorers from a year ago. The Indians, though, have hit their stride winning eight of nine, while the Cougars struggled Tuesday after trailing just 17-15 at the end of the first.
Albany went wild from 3-point land in the second, hitting five from beyond the arc in a six-minute span, to bust open a 38-28 lead at halftime. Jamarcis Nunally drained two of his three treys in the second quarter and scored all 11 of his points in the first half.
“We’re growing up,” Chatmon said. “The effort is there. I can never complain about the effort. We’ve just got to play smarter. We shot the three well (Tuesday). Otherwise you would have seen another knock-down, drag-out (defensive battle). We were able to get off to a good start and that made the difference.”
The Indians defense went on display in the third with Emanuel Byrd and Jordan Young combining for seven blocks in the quarter, while sophomore Tyler Cheese did his damage inside on the offensive end to finish with 17 points and seven rebounds.
“It’s our defense,” Chatmon said of the difference Tuesday. “Really every game, that has been the key. If we make a move, it usually starts with our defense.”
The Cougars (5-11, 4-4 Region 1-AAAA) showed flashes early and got 20 points and four steals from guard Javoris Cooks, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
“We’re Jekyll and Hyde,” said Smith, who had just one returning starter from last year’s Elite Eight team. “We’ve got to have a gut check.”
After trailing 58-40 entering the fourth quarter, Crisp put up a fight with a 10-0 run to cut the lead to 58-50 with 5:04 to play, but Albany put the game away with a 7-0 run of its own.
The Indians got 13 points from Malik Dungee-Ali, while Dezmand Newberry added nine. Primetime Hamilton scored nine for the Cougars, who play host to Worth County Friday.
Albany (11-5, 6-3 Region 1-AAAA) travels to Dougherty Friday after pulling out a 51-50 overtime win at the Civic Center last weekend against the Trojans.
CRISP COUNTY GIRLS 45, ALBANY HIGH 40: The Squaws dominated the first half, but it was all Herald Super 6er Nasheema Oliver in the second half Tuesday in the Crisp County Lady Cougars’ 45-40 second-half comeback.
Oliver, who was held to 10 points and two rebounds in the first half, scored 10 in the third quarter alone and finished with a game-high 24 to go with 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. Albany blanketed Oliver in the first half and outrebounded Crisp, 16-10, to take a 23-18 lead at intermission. The Squaws (4-14, 3-6 Region 1-AAAA) scored the first three points of the second half and led 26-18 before Oliver scored 10 in a 3:30 span and Albany went in an offensive malaise.
Crisp (9-5, 6-2 Region 1-AAAA) outscored Albany 14-5 in the third and took a 38-30 lead into the fourth before the Squaws came alive with an 8-2 run capped by Brianna Williams’ fast-break layup to cut the deficit to 40-38 with 2:22 to play.
Jackson scored on another lay-in off of Alonclia Calhoun’s steal on an inbound pass to get as close as 42-40 with 1:33 left, but Albany couldn’t find a big shot down the stretch to tie the game.
Williams and Jackson led Albany with 10 points, while Brianna Washington added eight. Crisp had no other scorers in double figures.