ALBANY — With a long season ahead, and such a young group of players, Albany High coach Archie Chapmon knows stressing the fundamentals is imperative.
The Indians nearly gave away a victory to visiting Mitchell County Eagles on Saturday, but Albany eventually held off Mitchell for a 49-48 win in both teams’ first games back since Christmas break.
“It’s a win,” Albany coach Archie Chapmon said. “We’ll take them any way we can get them.”
The Indians were led by Jordan Young, who had 12 points and five rebounds. Taylor Cheese added 11 points and five rebounds of his own. Despite both juniors’ stat lines, the offense looked out of sync for most of the game.
“Normally, I could point out who had a good game,” Chatmon said. “There was just no flow to what we were doing out there. I couldn’t tell you who had the most points.”
Albany clung to a 41-35 lead with just over seven minutes left in regulation, but thanks to a stingy defense, the Eagles were able to rally. After a 3-pointer from Quentin Thomas cut the lead to three, the teams traded free throws. Neither team was able to establish dominance on rebounds, so second-chance points were at a premium.
“One place we struggled was on the boards, so that was our challenge going into this game,” Chatmon said. “I think we did a better job with that, despite struggling in other areas. We’ve got to take care of the ball. We’re not doing a good job with that.”
Another area the Indians had seen better days was from the free throw line. It nearly cost them a win down the stretch. With the gym in a frenzy, Thomas caught the rebound off a missed free throw, frantically dribbled down the court, and heaved a 3-pointer from at least 24 feet and drained it to tie the game at 48.
After having an abysmal day from the charity stripe (10-for-29), junior guard Malik Dungee was able to convert one of two shots after being fouled to give the Indians a one-point lead. After a technical foul by Mitchell County, the Indians went to the line again, where Joe Stone missed both opportunities, giving the Eagles the ball with 8.7 seconds left for one last shot, a 3-point attempt by Josh King that bounced off the backboard. In the last quarter, the home team went 2-for-10 from the line.
“If we shoot 50 percent in the fourth quarter alone, it wouldn’t be so tough down the stretch,” Chatmon said. “If we can just make one every time we go to the line, we have a more comfortable lead in the last few minutes. When the other team is hitting 20-footers, then you have to scrap for everything you get, and that’s what we did.”
Chatmon was hesitant to blame the loss on youth.
“We practice this every day,” he said. “We just can’t make it translate to the games. This is a young team, but the team they played is just as young.”
Mitchell County fell to 0-5 in road contests. The Indians moved to 5-2 at home. Quentin Thomas led the Eagles with 16 points.
Earlier in the evening, The Herald No. 5 Mitchell County girls got more than they bargained for against the winless Squaws. Albany High only trailed 24-22 at the start of the fourth quarter and traded punches with Mitchell County for the duration of the final period. The heavy underdog Squaws were led by sophomore Alandra Calhoun, who led the way with 15 points. Three other players added six points each.
Senior Shonbreka Holton was huge in the fourth quarter for the Lady Eagles, finishing with 11 points and three rebounds. A’Miracle Jones also added 11 points of her own, while Deundra Hill led the way with 12 points.
Albany High fell to 0-12 after the loss, while the Lady Eagles moved to 8-4. Both teams are on the road next Tuesday, as Mitchell county travels to Colquitt to face Miller County.
Albany High will head to Americus on Tuesday to take on the Lady Panthers.