Randolph-Clay’s Adrianna Blackmon, right, helped lead the Lady Red Devils past then-No. 1 Monroe and Jamekia Morine recently to ascend to The Herald’s top spot in the Fab 5 Poll. R-C is also No. 1 in the new state poll. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CUTHBERT — Jennifer Acree’s Randolph-Clay Lady Red Devils know how important the team’s recent No. 1 power ranking is, because if they end the regular season as the No. 1 team it could mean having the home court — not only in the Region 1-A tournament, but they could be at home throughout the state playoffs, which have a different format this season.
Instead of holding the Final Four at Macon, only the finals will be held there, which means the semifinal games will be held at the home of the highest-seeded team, and the seeding will be based on the power rankings.
“We know how important it is for us to be the No. 1 team and to stay there,’’ Acree said this week. “We’re undefeated at home this year, and we know if we keep winning we could be at home all the way until the finals. I tell them before each game that every game is important. We want to be at home.’’
The Lady Red Devils (15-2) lost to Class AAAA Monroe but avenged that loss a couple of weeks ago to move into the top spot The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll.
The only other loss was a three-point defeat to Class AA state power Greater Atlanta Christian.
“We came back and beat Monroe, and I wish we had a chance to get GAC (again),’’ she said. “We are 10 points away from being undefeated.’’
Randolph-Clay picked up big wins against Class AAAA state power Carrollton, and beat Class AAAA teams from Riverdale, Westover and Albany High, as well as beating Class AA Early County to help its power rating.
“We’re happy to be No. 1,’’ Acree said. “The important thing for us to continue to do what we’ve been doing and maintain that position.’’
Acree said her kids understand what’s on the line.
“They’re happy about (the polls), but they know each game counts, and we can’t afford to lose a game,’’ Acree said. “If you want to win a state championship, you want to have that No. 1 ranking and be able to play at home. We’re confident at home.’’
Randolph-Clay faces a big test tonight at rival Calhoun County, where the atmosphere will be electric.
“It’s going to be ridiculous,’’ Acree said. “The Calhoun fans are wild and crazy. I love it. We know what to expect when we go there.’’
Most of the Randolph-Clay girls play on the same AAU team with Calhoun’s Brandi Bouie, who is a Herald Super 6er, which adds a little more to the rivalry. It will be packed when Randolph-Clay faces Calhoun tonight.
“I’m looking forward to it,’’ Acree said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge.’’
Acree expects “a standing-room-only crowd” when Randolph-Clay plays rival Terrell County at home on Saturday night as Randolph-Clay’s girls and boys teams face their two biggest rivals this weekend.
g EAGLES SOARING: There’s nothing like being ranked No. 1, but being No. 1 in the state Class A power ratings takes on a different meaning.
Just ask Mitchell County boys coach Kenneth Harris, whose Eagles — like the Randolph-Clay girls — are the No. 1-ranked team in the public school power ratings.
Unlike in the past, the format for reaching the state playoffs has changed for Class A schools. Instead of the top four teams in each region qualifying for the playoffs, only the region champ is guaranteed a berth. The other teams in the 16-team state playoff field will earn their way in based on their power rating.
“We liked it the old way when the top four teams went to the playoffs,’’ Harris said. “But you have to play the hand you’re dealt. It’s important (to be ranked No. 1) because if you don’t win the region, it’s the only way to get to the playoffs.
“We know every game is important.’’
The power rankings are based on a team’s record and strength of schedule, and Mitchell is not only 14-3, but the Eagles have played and beaten several schools in higher classifications, including Class AAAAAA Valdosta and Brunswick, Class AAAAA Lee County, and Class AA teams from Pelham, Thomasville, Brooks County and others.
“We played some tough competition,’’ Harris said. “We didn’t play a lot of weak teams. Two of the three losses were to bigger schools — Valdosta and Class AAAA Albany High. The other loss was to Region 1-A rival Randolph-Clay.”
Mitchell avenged the loss to Valdosta and plays Albany High on Saturday at home. The only way the Eagles can meet Randolph-Clay again is in the region tournament, which might be held at Randolph-Clay. The top-seeded girls team will get to host the region semifinals and finals, and the Randolph-Clay girls are unbeaten in region play.
“I’m being realistic. I don’t see them losing any games,’’ Harris said of the Lady Red Devils.
That’s another reason Mitchell is ecstatic about its position in the power ratings.
“We’re happy, but we’re not content. The kids play hard every night and that’s what’s important,’’ Harris said. “We’re just playing one game at a time, and that other stuff will take care of itself.’’
CRISP ACADEMY 54, TIFTAREA 22: The Lady Wildcats continued their dominance over the rest of Southwest Georgia on Thursday with an easy win behind 15 points from Herald Super 6er Madi Mitchell and 10 apiece from J.J. Yawn and Kendall Wilson.
Crisp, which improved to 18-2 with the win, returns to action today at home against Grace Christian.
Terrell Academy boys, girls sweep Fullington
DAWSON — Led by Lauren Barfield’s 16 points, the Terrell Academy girls basketball team edged by Fullington on Thursday night, 46-42.
Fullington’s Rachel McCleskey scored 22 points, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Lady Eagles, who improved to 11-6 on the season.
In the boys game, Terrell Academy improved to 8-6 on the season following Thursday’s 59-51 victory against Fullington.
Both games were non-region contests.
Coner Walsh and Caleb Waters each scored 13 for Terrell, which also got 10 points from Raleigh Carlson
Fullington’s David Roney scored a game-high 20 in the loss.
Terrell’s boys improved to 8-6, and along with the girls will host region foe Valwood today at home.