EDISON — Calhoun County coach Marcus Shaw kept it simple after his team watched its 16-point lead evaporate in Thursday’s Class A Elite 8 game against No. 1 seed Treutlen County.
“We just told them to keep playing hard,” Shaw said. “We knew our season was on the line.”
The No. 8 Cougars dug deep in the closing minutes and pulled out a 78-71 victory to advance to the Final Four for the first time since 1997.
“We worked so hard this year, and they didn’t want this season to end,” Shaw said. “Our kids were hungry. Everybody dug deep and played their hearts out, and we came out with the win.”
It’s been a banner year at Calhoun County already, and now the Cougars’ remarkable season continues Saturday at Savannah State, where they will play No. 4 Wilkinson County in the evening’s last semifinal game.
On Thursday, Calhoun County stormed out to a 16-point first-half lead, but Treutlen rallied back and cut the Cougars’ lead to just two points at halftime. Treutlen eventually took the lead in the fourth quarter and led by three points with six minutes left. But the Calhoun County defense put together a series of big defensive stops and key buckets to reclaim the lead to advance to the Final Four for the first time since the Cougars won a state title 17 years ago.
Quenton Taylor led Calhoun County with 19 points, and DaJohn Williams added 18 points. Also with big nights for the Cougars were Deante Scott and Sherrod Williams with 15 and 10 points, respectively.
MITCHELL COUNTY GIRLS 51, TURNER COUNTY 42: Mitchell County coach Rosemary Sanders was ready to break the Elite 8 curse.
“That’s what I told the girls,” said Sanders, who had watched her Lady Eagles lose three straight Elite 8 games the past three seasons entering Thursday’s game. “We just kept getting to this moment, but we couldn’t finish. I told them that we have to break this curse.”
They did so in dominating fashion, upsetting No. 2 seed Turner County and advancing to the program’s first Final Four since the early 1990s.
No. 7 Mitchell County trailed by five points in the second quarter but mounted a comeback and took a 22-17 lead to halftime. The Lady Eagles never trailed in the second half.
Shonbreka Holton scored 23 points to lead Mitchell County, while teammates Antonia Jones and A’Miracle Jones scored 15 and 13 points, respectively.
Next up for the Lady Eagles will be No. 6 seed Greenville at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Savannah State.
WARNER ROBINS BOYS 69, BAINBRIDGE 48: The Bearcats finally met their match on Thursday.
After upsetting Mundy’s Mill in the Sweet 16, Bainbridge was denied a trip to the Final Four with a 21-point loss to Warner Robins.
The Bearcats trailed by just eight at halftime and cut the deficit to as low as six in the third quarter but ran out of steam against a Warner Robins team that has now won 19 straight games.
“We were a young team this year,” Bainbridge coach Rickey McCullough said, reflecting on the season. “I started three sophomores, and my sixth man was a sophomore. We were playing good at the right time. I think it was a special year, and I am proud of them.”
Herald Super 6er Tyree Crump, one of the most dynamic scorers in Southwest Georgia, was held to 13 points by a Warner Robins defense that played him man-to-man full court the entire game.
HAWKINSVILLE BOYS 58, RANDOLPH-CLAY 49: Hawkinsville’s Ditalion Williams had two steals and layups in the final minute to stretch his team’s lead from one to five in a matter of seconds to end the Red Devils’ season in Thursday’s Class A Elite 8 matchup.
It was a close game throughout and Randolph-Clay even led in the fourth quarter, but Hawkinsville pulled away late to punch its ticket to the Final Four.
“Of course it’s disappointing. Of course it’s hard when you have high expectations, and you don’t achieve your ultimate goal,” Randolph-Clay coach Michael Hoffpauir said. “But we let our guys know that they did some great things this season, and we wanted to make sure they kept their heads high.”
The Region 1-A champion and No. 2 seed Red Devils were led by Herald Super 6er Gary McCrae, who scored 15 points. Quailan Jones and Ryan Wiggins added 12 and 10 points, respectively.
No. 10 seed Hawkinsville, which upset Seminole County in the opening round, will play Turner County in Saturday’s Final Four.