Worth County’s Brandon Moore looks to score as Crisp County’s Rashad Buckholts goes up for the block during Thursday’s Region 1-AAAA semifinal game at Monroe High School. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)
ALBANY — By now if you’ve followed the Worth County boys basketball team you know about its wall of defenders.
Their intimidating presence was needed more than ever Thursday evening as The Herald No. 4 Rams used the final quarter to erase a double-digit deficit and pull out a Region 1-AAAA semifinal victory against Crisp County, 56-52.
“It’s all about never giving up,” Worth County’s Anfernee McLemore said. “We never gave up. We just kept pushing and kept fighting.”
Fighting was exactly what the Rams had to do as the Cougars led for most of the game. Although they scored just six more points than Worth County in the second quarter, the Cougars were a step quicker and a play ahead of the Rams.
When Herald Super 6er McLemore picked up his third foul late in the second quarter, the Cougars were in the driver’s seat for a victory.
“When they went up by nine we knew it was going to be tough because they shoot the ball extremely well,” Worth County head coach Arthur Davis admitted. “In the first half Crisp definitely wanted it a little more.”
The Cougars actually increased their halftime lead by one after three periods (43-35). It was not until the fourth quarter that the Rams got into defensive form and played to their identity.
“We had to go to our press, and the guys turned it up on defense,” Davis said. “We were able to get in transition because of our defense and score before they could set up.”
With just under five minutes remaining, Worth County’s Brandon Moore scored under the basket, giving the Rams their first lead at 44-43.
The Cougars led by as many as 12 points in the third quarter, but Crisp County coach Terry Smith said it was poor shot selection that allowed Worth to creep back into the game.
“We missed a lot of jump shots and also when we got it inside we missed a lot of shots,” Smith said. “I think we got a little complacent and settled on the jump shot too much. We didn’t need to be shooting 3-pointers with that lead.”
“They were double teaming the big men so we kicked it out to the guards and they knocked down a couple of shots,” Moore explained. “Then they started playing up on the guards, so that opened things up for us and we got some easy baskets in the paint.”
Moore led his team with 16 points, while McLemore chipped in 14 points. The Rams got a surprising contribution from David Tolbert, who came in when McLemore went to the bench and finished with 12 points.
“Tolbert played big for us (Thursday),” Davis said. “He hasn’t been playing a lot for us, but he came through (Thursday). I am so proud of the team and especially proud of David Tolbert.”
Crisp County fell behind by nine points before hitting a couple of 3-pointers in the closing seconds to make the game interesting. But the Rams were locked in by that point and were not going to relinquish the lead.
“I feel like we have some of the best defensive players on our team,” Moore said. “We are a good shot-blocking team, so we have to continue on with defense and rebounding.”
The Cougars were led by Condell Woodson who scored 16 points. Davion Harvey had 12 points and point guard Javoris Cooks, a Herald Super 6er, finished with nine points.
While Worth County is headed to today’s Region 1-AAAA championship game, the Cougars will play for third place today and will have to settle for a game on the road in the opening round of the Class AAAA playoffs next week.
“The years that we advanced deep in the playoff we have always hosted the first round,” Smith said. “But I always take a peek at the state playoff bracket and look at what region crosses over with us, and I told our kids (Thursday) that the best seeds for us to have would be the No. 1 or No. 3 seeds.”
on way to finals
It started with the court vision needed to find the open shooter. Then it was a matter of knocking down the open looks.
After succeeding in both, the Westover girls basketball team found itself in prime position to advance to today’s Region 1-AAAA championship game.
Au Bre’Ana Moore’s 16 points led the way as the Lady Patriots routed Crisp County, 50-32, Thursday afternoon at Monroe High School.
“We played as a team, listened to our coaches, followed our system…and it all came together for us,” Moore said. “My basic thinking was getting to where I wanted to be and not focusing on how big (Nasheema) Oliver was. And when she did step up I dished it off to my teammates because we all have basketball experience so I played off of them.”
Achanti Layfield added 10 points for Westover, and MyKesa Smith scored seven points.
Crisp County was immediately at a disadvantage when Oliver, a Herald Super 6er and Georgia commit, got in foul trouble early as the Lady Patriots were able to attack the basket freely.
“Take nothing away from Westover; they had a good gameplan and they took it to us,” Crisp County head coach Barrett Wilkes said. “They got (Oliver) in foul trouble, and when something like that happens you have to adjust.”
Scoring only 13 points in the first half, the Lady Cougars were plagued by missed shots all game. Even when they got the ball inside to an open player, Westover collapsed its 2-3 zone defense, making the task of scoring that much more challenging.
“This was our third time playing them, so we were familiar with what they wanted to do,” Westover head coach Lewis Smith said. “They have two great shooters, so I didn’t want them to worry so much about (Oliver) and forget about the other players. I wanted the girls to know where they were at all times.”
Oliver, the Lady Cougars’ second leading scorer, had only two points, while Kayla Green finished with a team-high 12 points. Dee Dee Williams and Deletria Colson each chipped in seven points.
WESTOVER BOYS ADVANCE, TOO: It was not the prettiest of games, but The Herald No. 1 Westover Patriots had enough to advance in the region tournament, beating Albany 63-55 Thursday night at Monroe High School.
In a game where the whistles seemed to blow constantly, the Patriots slowly pulled away from the Indians, eventually establishing a double-digit lead in the third quarter thanks to a couple of Michael Green treys.
The Indians did not fold, however, as they worked their way back into the game.
With two minutes left in regulation, the Patriots’ lead had dwindled to 52-50.
A few scores later, Albany’s Tyler Cheese could have tied the game, but missed a good look from behind the arc.
Westover ultimately put the game away from the free-throw line to secure a spot in tonight’s championship game, while Albany will now be on the road in the opening week of next week’s state playoffs.
Monroe girls surge past Dougherty into title game
There was no upset to speak of after Thursday evening’s Region 1-AAAA girls semifinal game between city rivals Monroe and Dougherty.
The Herald No. 2 Lady Tornadoes, who went undefeated in the region during the regular season, made it clear why they are seeded No. 1, whisking past the fourth-seed Lady Trojans at home, 63-48, and into today’s championship against Westover.
“We told the girls that they have to keep on attacking even though they called a lot of fouls in the first half,” Monroe head coach Cheryl Cheeks said. “We shot a lot of jumpers at first, and then we went to the basket and played our game.”
Dougherty led by two at the break but completely fell apart in the third quarter. They were outscored 26-9, committed several turnovers and saw star player and Ra’Keta Shelton foul out with 1:46 in the period.
“Once she fouled out that really helped us out with our press defense because they didn’t really have anyone to handle the ball,” Cheeks said. “We struggled a little bit in the first half but the ladies came back fighting.”
Doing most of her scoring from the charity stripe, Monroe’s Key Key Price finished with 16 points, while Cekeya Mack had a game-high 23 points. Treasure Frazier added eight points.
Amber Ward led the Lady Trojans in a losing effort with 22 points. Shelton had 17 points, and Takiya Davis scored nine points.