Randolph-Clay’s Shanice Jackson scores two of her 10 first-half points Monday against Central Talbotton in the opening round of the GHSA Class A state tournament. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)
CUTHBERT — Randolph-Clay’s Brandi Buie made sure the message was sent loud and clear.
“Our goal is higher than winning one game,” Buie said. “We want to win all of them. It’s got to be a state championship all the way.”
Buie and her teammates took a huge step in that direction Monday night.
The No. 1 seed Lady Red Devils looked like a team on a mission with a 71-48 victory against No. 16 Central Talbotton in the opening round of the GHSA Class A state playoffs, sending Randolph-Clay into the Elite 8 with ease.
Randolph-Clay is the No. 1 seed for the second year in a row, but there’s a little extra fire with the Lady Red Devils this season after last year’s state-title hopes were derailed in a devastating loss to Gordon Lee in the state championship game.
Buie made sure there was no upset Monday in the Joe C. Williams Gymnasium, where she ignited the Lady Red Devils after a slow start with 15 second-quarter points.
“She can take over,” Randolph-Clay coach Jennifer Acree said of Buie, who finished with a game-high 27 points. “It’s been that way the whole season. She can just ignite us.”
Randolph-Clay (24-4), now victorious in 12 of its last 13 games, looked rusty early and only led by eight points after the opening quarter.
But then Buie took over.
She scored the first four points of the second quarter to put the Lady Red Devils ahead by double-figures and then rattled off nine points in a span of two minutes midway through the quarter to stretch Randolph-Clay’s lead to 20 points.
“This is my senior year, and I’m just trying to give it my all,” said the star guard, who transferred to Randolph-Clay from Calhoun County in the offseason and has made Randolph-Clay even stronger than it was during last year’s run. “This is my last go-round.”
By halftime, the Lady Red Devils were on top 42-17, and they never led by fewer than 20 points the rest of the game.
It wasn’t as dominant as some of the victories this season by the Region 1-A champs, but it was enough to get them through to the quarterfinals, where they will face No. 9 seed Towns County.
“We know it starts here,” Acree said. “And like I tell them, there were four games left in the season (before Monday), and it starts with the task we had (Monday). If we don’t win that game then there’s no more games. They have to play each game like it’s their last, because it could be.”
Shanice Jackson also helped dig the Lady Red Devils out of an early funk with 10 first-half points. The starting guard finished with 14 points, while Herald Super 6er Kobi Thornton was dominant in the paint all night, scoring 18 points.
Central Talbotton ended its season at 17-11 and was led by Cavana Epps and Tatiyana Mahone, who scored 21 and 18 points, respectively.