Lee County’s Aaron May, right, goes up for a shot over Bainbridge’s Stephon Johnson during Friday’s huge Region 1-AAAAA duel in Leesburg. Lee stunned The Herald No. 3 Bearcats, 71-70, on two last-second free throws. (email@example.com)
LEESBURG — Feb. 14, 2008.
That’s the last time Bainbridge High lost a region game in the regular season. Thirty-one, count ’em, 31 straight region wins for the Bearcats.
Leave it to an upstart Lee County team to bring the streak to a crashing end Friday night in Leesburg.
Trojans senior Reggie Breedlove hit two clutch free throws with 24 seconds left to give Lee the lead, and the Trojans avoided blowing a 15-point, fourth-quarter advantage to pick up a huge region upset, 71-70, over 1-AAAAA power Bainbridge.
“I felt good coming into the game,” Trojans first-year head coach Kirven Davis said. “The kids are starting to believe. This coaching thing is a funny business. People think it’s all strategy, but it’s really about what the kids decide to do.”
Lee County, a four-win team last season, decided they’d shock the region and this corner of the state Friday after a rough start under Davis, but the non-region slate is no more and the Trojans are 2-1 in 1-AAAAA with another big game today at Northside, Columbus.
“We were talking with coach, and he said the regular season is done,” said Breedlove, who scored 15 in the win to go along those clutch foul shots with seconds left. “Only the region games count. He’s worked with us, and we’ve come together as a team. We finally got it done.”
Aside from a region tournament loss to Northside, Warner Robins last season, the Bearcats had been on a 5-year unbeaten run in regular-season region play.
After Breedlove connected on the free throws, Bainbridge's Dontavius Marshall was off the mark on a 3 with under 10 seconds to play, and B.J. Cheatem missed at the buzzer as Lee hung for dear life to pick up a signature win for the program.
“The confidence is growing,” Davis said.
Lee County led by as many as 17 points in the second half and took a 62-47 lead into the fourth quarter before Bainbridge stormed back behind Marshall and freshman Tyree Crump.
Marshall, who scored a game-high 27 points, and Crump (18 points) combined to hit 10 threes in the game and connected on back-to-back 3s during a 21-3 run to open the fourth quarter that gave Bainbridge (10-4, 2-1 Region 1-AAAAA) its first lead of the game, 66-64, with 2:38 to play.
“They can shoot,” Davis said. “You’re not going to find a team that can shoot the ball better than Bainbridge.”
Trojans junior Aaron May, who finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds, followed up a miss and got fouled for a three-point play to cut it to 68-67, but Marshall took off the other way on a full-court drive and scored to put Bainbridge back up, 70-67.
Lee’s Quan Jamison then hit a jumper with 1:05 left and the Trojans got a stop before Breedlove was fouled and hit the eventual winning free throws.
“We do that in practice every day,” May said of hitting free throws under pressure, although the Trojans had been 1-for-8 from the line in the second half up to that point.
The Trojans knew what time tip-off was, but the Bearcats were late to the party. After Lee went up 17-2 in the first 4:30, Bainbridge came back and cut it to 21-20 at the end of the first on Marshall's 3-pointer. The Trojans battled back and took a 39-32 lead into halftime.
Both Marshall, who had 17 points at halftime, and Crump hit five 3s each.
Jaysyn Brown was big for Lee County (7-9), scoring 18 points with four 3-pointers. The Trojans also got an added bonus with the return of junior captain and quarterback of the football team, Stephen Collier, who came back from an ankle injury and had seven points at halftime before being held scoreless in the second half.
“I had to look up into the stands and (Collier’s dad) gave me the thumbs up (to play Stephen),” Davis said of putting the star quarterback on the court with an ankle that was less than 100 percent. “He is our heart and soul.”
The Trojans have now won three straight after knocking off Bainbridge, which was on an eight-game win streak prior to Friday.
“It was a mental thing,” Breedlove said of turning the season around. “We came together in practice, and we practice hard. The harder we go in practice, the easier it is in games.”
LEE GIRLS 45, BAINBRIDGE 35: Tondra Davis’ first half season at the helm of Lee County basketball has been trying at times.
“Every day is a battle,” Davis said.
That made Friday’s first region win of the season just that much sweeter. Lee knocked out Bainbridge High in the fourth quarter to pull away for a huge win in Region 1-AAAAA play.
“It’s coming together and the girls are learning so much,” Davis said. “We’re trying to do the little things, which turn out to be big things. The girls are starting to buy into the things we’re trying to do.”
The first few months have been a bit of a bumpy ride for the Lady Trojans (3-11, 1-2 Region 1-AAAAA), but they believe things are coming together.
“It’s been tough, but our coach is very positive,” Trojans junior Maggie O’Conner said. “She’s good at finding the small parts of our game that we need to work on.”
The Lady Trojans led just 24-22 entering the fourth before outscoring the Lady Bearcats 21-13 in the final eight minutes.
Bainbridge had taken a 28-26 lead with 6:18 to play after Tamena Levens’ steal and fast-break points, but the Lady Trojans answered with a 14-4 run, including eight points during the streak from Katherine McConnell who led Lee with 12.
Briana Scott’s lay-in with an assist from Ashley Morris gave Lee a 36-30 lead with 3:36 left in the game.
Bainbridge cut the lead slightly on Alex Carter’s three at the 1:58 mark, but O’Conner answered with a trey of her own to go back up 43-35 with 1:35 left and that sealed it.
O’Conner finished with nine points and seven rebounds.
“My shot wasn’t there but my teammates were there for me,” she said. “I was like, ‘Thank goodness.’ ”
Kayla Cooper scored 10 points and added 10 rebounds. Carter led Bainbridge with (4-10, 1-2 region) with 13 points. Lee County looks for region win number two tonight at Northside Columbus.