Bainbridge High’s Myles Thomas (32) battles Northside-Columbus’ Phillip Whittington (44) and Davion Thomas (5) for the rebound Monday night in the Region 1-AAAAA championship game at Bainbridge High. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
BAINBRIDGE — Just moments after Bainbridge lost the Region 1-AAAAA boys title Monday night to Northside-Columbus, coach Rickey McCullough was surfing the internet in his office, already looking ahead to his team’s next game.
The 64-62 setback to the Patriots was a stinging setback for a team that had played so well of late, and McCullough tried everything he could to move forward, even if it meant looking ahead to his first round state tournament opponent Saturday night against Benedictine.
“This one was tough,” said a disappointed McCullough. “But these guys will get back up.”
Bainbridge (17-11) lost its chance to earn the region title and a No. 1 seed. But the Bearcats will play host Saturday night to Region 3-AAAAA No. 3 seed Benedictine.
The reason Monday was disappointing was because the Bearcats, after falling behind by as many as 20 in the first half, fought like champions to get back into the game. They chipped away, then grabbed the lead, going ahead by as many as nine before things went sour in the final minutes.
But like Bainbridge did in the third quarter, Northside gradually dwindled down the Bearcats’ lead in the final quarter. Northside cut the deficit to a point with 4:38 left before Herald Super 6er Tyree Crump went coast-to-coast on a driving layup, then drew a foul. He converted the three-point play at the 3:32 mark, and Bainbridge seemed to finally have some breathing room.
The Patriots (15-10) used a trio of free throws, then following a Bainbridge turnover, Caleb Baker banged a shot off the glass to tie the game at 57 with 1:53 left.
Matthew Richardson’s putback gave Northside its first lead since the early minutes of the third quarter at the 1:49 mark, but Stephen Johnson sank a bucket to re-tie the game at 59.
The Patriots went ahead 63-59 with 15 seconds remaining, but Crump drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key to cut it to 63-62 with nine seconds left.
The Bearcats quickly fouled Richardson, who sank one of his two free throws to put the Patriots ahead by two.
Bainbridge inbounded, then tried to sink a 3-pointer that bounced off the rim, ending its chances.
“We needed to get a stop,” McCullough said. “We went with a three to win it. We didn’t have any timeouts left to set up a play.”
Jordan Davis watched the Bearcats’ last-second 3-point attempt from the bench. While he said it was frustrating, he believes Bainbridge will be back.
“This one hurts a lot,” Davis said. “But we’ve got to get back to practice and work hard for our next game.”
The loss was especially tough considering how Bainbridge started. The Bearcats trailed 19-9 at the end of the first, then fell behind 29-9 early in the second.
After they worked to trim the deficit to 31-25 in the third, Northside sank a bucket to make it 33-25. But Trevon Shaw and Crump ignited a 17-0 run over the next 3:01 to build a 42-33 advantage.
“I was proud of the way we fought back to get back into it,” McCullough said. “We took the lead but had too many turnovers down the stretch in key situations.”
Crump led the way with 24 points, while Devontae Jones finished with 11. Dominic Douglas added eight.
NORTHSIDE-COLUMBUS GIRLS 54, LEE COUNTY 33: Northside jumped all over Lee County and claimed the Region 1-AAAAA title and top seed.
The Lady Patriots (22-5) won their 12th straight game behind a physical lineup that refused to let Lee County have any success inside.
Lee County (14-13), which still gets to host its first home playoff game in four years, was led by Maggie O’Connor, who finished with nine points and 11 rebounds, just missing a double-double. Kayla Cooper and Katherine McConnell added eight points apiece for the Lady Trojans, who will be the No. 2 seed in the first round of the state tournament that begins on Friday.
LEE COUNTY BOYS 55, HARDAWAY 44: Lee County (13-13) shook off a slow start to earn the No. 3 seed from Region 1-AAAAA with a win over Hardaway (8-19) on Monday.
It started off weird for the Trojans, who had a mixup in game jerseys and had to borrow game uniforms from host school Bainbridge.
Herald Super 6er Aaron May led the way with 22 points, but it was Jalin Wimberly who gave the Trojans some breathing room late, drilling his second 3-pointer of the game with 1:55 left to give Lee a 49-42 advantage.
Wimberly finished with 15 points, while Jalen Bush added nine. The Trojans will play their first round game on the road at a site and date to be determined.
HARDAWAY GIRLS 33, BAINBRIDGE 32: In a mild upset, Hardaway upended Bainbridge to earn the No. 3 seed from Region 1-AAAAA.
The Lady Bearcats (15-13) earned the No. 4 seed. Patra Parris led Bainbridge with 11 points, while Asia Gordon and Alex Carter contributed seven points each.
Hardaway (10-18) led for most of the first half before Bainbridge made a run in the end.