Randolph-Clay girls coach Jennifer Acree, right, hugs Brandi Buie as the Lady Red Devils celebrate the Region 1-A championship Saturday night at Seminole County High School. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
DONALSONVILLE — A large part of the capacity crowd was trying to offer Randolph-Clay High School star Brandie Buie encouragement after she missed the second of her two free throw attempts which could have sent the Lady Red Devils to a victory in regulation.
Inside, Buie was fighting a wave of emotions, kicking herself, chewing herself out and being disgusted that she let an opportunity get away.
However, she made up for it in overtime, scoring six of her game-high 38 points to give the top-seeded Lady Red Devils a hard-fought 77-74 overtime victory over rival Mitchell County, clinching the Region 1-A championship Saturday night at Seminole County High School.
Her two free throws with nine seconds left in overtime sealed the victory.
“I was upset with myself,” Buie said. “But I kept telling myself over and over not to give up. That was what I stuck to.”
Buie played like a wild bull in a rodeo, scoring early and often on her way to a career night in perhaps Randolph-Clay’s most important game of the season thus far.
However, it was just enough to top a stubborn Mitchell County squad. The two played like two prized fighters in a Vegas boxing ring with Randolph-Clay providing the final knockout blow in overtime.
Lady Red Devil coach Jennifer Acree said she tried to downplay Buie’s missed free throw attempt in regulation. After all, she was glad just to go into overtime.
Three times in the closing minutes of regulation, Mitchell had a chance to seal the victory. However, poor free throw shooting cost them an upset victory.
Randolph-Clay (23-4) jumped all over Mitchell County to start the game, but the Lady Eagles (22-6), who had their seven-game winning streak snapped, stayed in the game with solid perimeter shooting.
Once Mitchell caught the Lady Red Devils with a pair of quick baskets to open the second half, neither team led by more than five. In fact, the two produced more lead changes than a pair of old men playing checkers at Cracker Barrel.
It seemed Mitchell purchased itself some breathing room late in regulation. Antonia Jones, who finished with 16 points, drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1:11 left to make it 63-60.
Then a steal and a layup from Teryetta Chester made it 65-60 with 1:04 left in regulation.
But Kobi Thornton banged a shot off the glass with seven seconds left after Mitchell failed to put the game away at the free throw line, missing the front end of a one-and-one twice, then missing a pair of free throws altogether with 22 seconds left to keep Randolph-Clay alive.
The Lady Red Devils took advantage, taking advantage of an errant pass with four seconds left. Thornton grabbed the ball, then called timeout, setting up a potential last-second attempt.
But Mitchell fouled Buie on the inbounds pass, sending her to the free throw line, where she made one of two. Her last one bounced off the rim into the hands of Mitchell’s A’Miracle Jones, who held the ball as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
“I told her we had this,” Acree said of what she told Buie before overtime started. “We could have won it with her free throw, but we still had her, Kobi (Thornton) … five of my top eight players on the floor. I just continued to trust in them.”
Buie and Thornton paced Randolph-Clay in overtime, helping them jump ahead by three points. Mitchell tied it after falling behind on a 3-pointer from Jmaica Williams with 1:43 in overtime, then grabbed the lead on a driving lay-in from Jones with 51 seconds left.
But Thornton gave Randolph-Clay the lead on a baseline jumper, then Buie iced it with a pair of free throws with nine seconds left.
Thornton finished with 22 for Randolph-Clay.
Shonbreka Holton led Mitchell with 20 points, while Myesha Williams added 14 points, 12 coming on four 3-point baskets.
Since inclement weather has delayed many region tournaments across the state, neither Randolph-Clay nor Mitchell County will know their seedings in the state tournament until later this week when tournaments are finalized and the final Class A public school power rankings are released. However, that didn’t stop Buie from making a claim of where her team was heading.
“State,” she said. “It’s time to go get the next trophy.”