GHSA Class A-Public semifinals from Valdosta State University
Class A-Public: Marion County, Calhoun County girls and Calhoun County, Treutlen boys advanced to the state title game:
By: Graham David
Valdosta State University – The Marion County and Calhoun County girls teams and the Calhoun County and Treutlen boys teams will play for the Class A-Public state championships Wednesday afternoon at the Macon Centreplex. The Marion County girls defeated Clinch County 57-49 Saturday in the semifinals at Valdosta State University, and the Calhoun County girls beat Telfair County 46-42. The Calhoun County boys defeated Wilkinson County 77-69, and the Treutlen boys defeated Irwin County 74-72. The girls title game is at 6 p.m., the boys at 8 p.m.
— Calhoun County 77, Wilkinson County 69
By late in the second quarter, the Wilkinson County Warriors had already established a 29-18 lead over Calhoun County, fueled by 12 first-half points from senior guard Jalen Lamar. The Cougars offense was held to just 7 points in the second quarter, giving Wilkinson County plenty of room to break away for the schools eleventh title in school history.
With 1:48 left in the third, Wilkinson still maintained a 39-28 lead over Calhoun County, but the late game excitement was about to get started. Following two field goals from the Cougars, sophomore Tykevious Curry hit a long three-ball and senior Bryan Smith seized a fast break and capitalized with a basket of his own to make it a 39-37 game in favor of Wilkinson County heading into the fourth.
Smith began to take over the game, hitting a short-range jumper to tie the game at the start of the fourth.
“He’s probably the smallest kid out there,” said head coach Marcus Shaw. “But he’s got one of the biggest hearts too.”
“We had to settle in,” said Smith. “For some reason we weren’t settled in.”
Calhoun County had mounted a comeback and were in the back end of the fourth. Up by two, the Cougars received a costly technical foul that sent Wilkinson’s Christian Lamar to the line where the junior tied the game. A couple trips to the line for Jalen Lamar gave the Warriors a 54-52 lead with just :11 left in the game. Smith had no problem tying the game at 54-54, and a missed last-second shot from Calhoun County’s Edwin Wims sent the game into overtime.
The Warriors mounted a 63-59 lead with :26 left in overtime, but shortly after Smith again stepped up to make the clutch shot and drained a long three to bring the Cougars within one. The Warriors had Lamar on the free-throw line, but only made one shot allowing junior Jahmad Wiley to get under the basket and make a last-second shot to extend the game into double overtime.
It was in the second overtime that the Cougars began to take control. Smith tacked on an additional 9 points to his 30-point performance. With :38 left in the game the Cougars’ 8-point lead proved too much to overcome as Calhoun County defeated three-time defending champ Wilkinson County to advance into the finals.
After the game, Coach Shaw had nothing but respect for his team. “Being tough, never quitting. That really showed at the end. I have a strong faith in this team. We were down early in the game, then there were those technical fouls. I thought the game maybe was slipping away.”
When asked what kept his team in the game, all Shaw had to say was, “We kept believing.”
Treutlen 74, Irwin County 72
The Vikings wasted no time at all putting points on the board, taking a commanding 29-12 lead with 3:45 left in the second quarter. With just over a minute left in the half, Ka’Sabian Mitchell drove hard to the rim to give the Vikings a 34-17 lead. The Irwin County offense sparked just before the first half could end, scoring five straight points to cut into the 17-point lead held by Treutlen.
Late into the third quarter the Indians began to mount a comeback featuring an eleven-point quarter from senior power forward Javon Stanley. Jamorri Colson and Garland Benyard each made shots from three-point range to make it a three-point game with a 45-42 lead by Treutlen. At the close of the quarter, the Vikings had seemingly lost all momentum as they found themselves down 54-53, but the one remaining quarter would prove to be all the time the Vikings needed.
“They have to fight,” said Treutlen head coach Tyree Coney. “Guys on the bench were cheering. They just weren’t giving up.”
The fourth quarter featured many lead changes with a lot of contact ball and players hitting the floor. Neither team was going home without a fight. With 1:17 remaining in the game, Irwin County’s Kobe Barnes was dished the ball and tied the game at 70-70. Arkavias Lovett and Mitchell both added a single free throw to the scoreboard, putting the Vikings up by 2. On the very next play, Benyard put the ball throw the net to keep the Indians alive and tie the game. With :02 left in the game, Lovett snagged the ball and got big under the basket to drop in the game-winning basket and send his team into the finals.
“It means a lot to me,” said Lovett following his game-winning shot. “In tenth grade we went 27-0 and then lost in the elite eight. Then we went 19-9 last season and got put out in the first round. We worked hard for this.”
Lovett ended the game with 17 points while Mitchell led the team with 20.
Marion County 57, Clinch County 49
The Marion County Lady Eagles moved one step closer to their school’s first ever state title with an all-out physical 57-49 victory over Clinch County.
“They keep finding a way and they keep working,” said head coach Fran McPherson. “We came out with a game plan and they executed it.”
Junior Jameshia Williams played hard ball throughout the entire game for the Eagles, hitting a long three-point shot late in the first quarter to retake a 11-10 lead over the Panthers. Shortly after, senior center Ansley Whitley posted up in the paint, got the ball and put the ball through the net. With just over a minute left in the first, Williams again drained a deep three to extend the lead, and followed up with a scoop and score on the fast break to go up 18-12. As the clock wound down, Clinch County’s Zyhia Johnson drove hard to the basket and hit the floater to bring the Panthers within four points heading into the second.
Johnson continued to be the star on the Clinch County offense, starting the second off with a fast-break layup. It wasn’t long after that when the sophomore point guard drove hard to the basket, taking the contact and draining the shot the tie the game at 18-18. Cara Kight’s long range jumper put the Panthers on top, but a block from Whitley against the next Clinch County shot attempt allowed Williams to scoop up the ball and retake the lead.
With just :12 left in the half, Beyounce Thomas received the ball and scored on a quick turnaround shot to lessen the Marion County lead to 28-26 at the half.
The Eagles were not satisfied with their two-point lead at the half, and came out in the third ready to seal the deal on their finals appearance. When asked to describe her style of play in one word, Jameshia Williams responded with “relentless.” This truly showed through the rest of the game as she darted up and down to play both ends of the court.
“Coach always tells us to get in and get the rebound, and to make sure to box out,” said Williams.
The third quarter ended with Marion still on top with a score of 40-34, but Clinch County wasn’t throwing in the towel. Johnson took charge and drove to the basket to make it a four-point game, but the Panthers would fail to close the gap on the Eagles who went on to amass their biggest lead of the game with a score of 50-38 with less than three minutes remaining in the game and held on strong to claim the semifinals victory.
“They just work hard and love each other,” said McPherson. “These girls trust each other.”
Williams ended the game as the lead scorer for Marion County with 18 points. Clinch County was led by Johnson who ended the game with 19.
Calhoun County 46, Telfair County 42
The Lady Cougars joined the Calhoun County boys basketball team in the state semifinals as they defeated Telfair County off a come-from-behind victory.
The Telfair County Trojans outscored Calhoun County 11-8 in the first quarter with senior Brandy Mackey scoring twice from the field and twice on the line. Two three-pointers from sophomore Ayani Mansfield kept the Cougars in the game.
The point deficit inflicted by Telfair County saw a bigger hit in the second quarter as junior Kanashus Enocher hit two second-quarter three-pointers for the Cougars after going 0 for 3 in the first.
Telfair still maintained control of the game late in the third with a 38-32 lead, but Enocher drained the last-second shot at the buzzer to make it a three-point game.
Calhoun County’s Takia Davis came out firing in the fourth, scoring the first points on the quarter to make it a one-point game. Telfair County’s Shalan Nelson scored the go-ahead basket with just 2:22 left in the game to go up 40-39, by Davis struck again for the Cougars with two consecutive baskets to take the lead. Sophomore Destiny Hightower put the nail in the coffin with a deep three ball to seal the deal on the Cougars win.
After the game Calhoun County head coach Cornellius Walker declined to speak due to the stellar streak his team has been on without contact to the media. While it may seem superstitious, the Cougars sit just one win away from their first girls basketball title in school history and will do what they have to in order to walk out victorious.