Bryan County girls’ basketball coach Mario Mincey looks at his schedule every year prior to the start of the season and calculates the number of wins he thinks his team will finish with.
“I keep the calendar on the refrigerator,” Mincey said. “This year I had us down for 18-20 wins if everyone bought in.”
Redskins players obviously bought in because the team picked up win number 20 last Friday night with a 52-27 win over McIntosh County Academy on Senior Night.
The lopsided win enabled Bryan County to finish regular season play with a 20-4 mark overall and 11-3 in Region 3A Public play. It secured a No. 3 seed behind Claxton and Screven County and a first-round bye going into the region tournament. A win would put them in the semifinals and a berth in the state tournament playoffs.
The early regular season finish has created a conundrum for Mincey as—unless he can schedule a game—the Redskins will have a two-week layoff before their first region tourney game. The tournament is Feb. 15-19 at Claxton High School.
“You don’t want a layoff that long,” Mincey said. “We’ve got good momentum right now. The GHSA limit is 25 games which means we can play one more. Everyone I’ve called is still playing and then have their region tournament or they don’t want to play us.”
In addition to the win over McIntosh the Redskins easily rolled past Portal, 65-23, last Tuesday. In both games freshman center Ashanti Brown played a key role.
Against Portal the fast-improving Brown scored 17 points and then had 14 against Metter while dominating the boards in both games. For the season she is now averaging 8.8 points per game, 13.2 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 2.2 blocks per outing.
Three-point specialist Niyah Shuman leads the team in scoring at 13.7 points per game followed by Kenzie Stucker at 13.4 and Anderia Jackson at 9.7.
Shuman, Jackson, Anjanee Johnson and Zipporah Johnson were seniors who were playing their final home game. Shuman and Jackson scored 10 each against the Bucs and Stucker matched Brown’s 14.
“They played on three 20-game winning teams,” Mincey said of his seniors. “Last year (9-12) was different because of the COVID situation. We had four girls who didn’t play because of COVID and that made it tough but it enabled us to play young players and it’s paying off this year.”
McIntosh held tough with the Redskins in the early going, trailing 8-6 only to see BC end the quarter on a 6-0 run and then go on a second quarter tear which resulted in a 30-15 halftime lead.
The second half was just a formality of playing out the game with the Redskins doubling the score, 45-22, in the third quarter when freshman point guard Neveah Lovett made a pair of free throws with 5.3 seconds on the clock.
After getting its biggest win of the season, a 73-70 win at Portal last Tuesday, it would have been only natural for Bryan County to have a letdown when it took on McIntosh County Academy.
Didn’t happen. Not even close to happening.
The Redskins took control of the game late in the first quarter and went on to post a 68-54 win over the Buccaneers. Elijah Mincey paced the win with 23 points, Devontae Bowers had 17 and Jamal Campbell 11
It was another strong outing for Bowers. The lithe junior forward scored a career high 22 points, 14 in a decisive fourth quarter, Campbell had 20 and Mincey 17 in the win at Portal. Bowers’ outburst meant every starter had led Bryan County in scoring in at least one game.
The two wins enabled Bryan County (18-5, 12-2) to lock up the Region 3A Public regular season race with a GHSA Class A Public state tournament berth and a spot in the semifinals as the No. 1 seed in the upcoming region tournament which will be played at Claxton High School Feb. 15-19.
The win at Portal (13-7, 10-3), in what everyone in attendance said was one of the best high school basketball games they had ever witnessed, avenged an earlier 59-57 loss to the Panthers who won it on a basket with six seconds to play.
Bryan County played at Jenkins on Tuesday night in a game scheduled last week to avoid going two weeks without playing.
“We won’t play again until Feb. 18th and that’s too long to go without playing,” Anderson said. “We can play 25 games and this week we were able to pick up the game with Jenkins.”
There is no questioning the impact of the win over MCA had on the Redskins.
“This means a lot,” Campbell said. “It keeps us going knowing we’ve got a spot in the state tournament. We all love playing the game.
“If we win our semifinal game that means we’ll be playing a state tournament game at home.”
Bryan County was giving up inches—in some cases several—at every position against McIntosh. The Bucs were easily the biggest team the Redskins had faced this year with seven players 6-foot-2 or taller.
Campbell and the Redskins, however, used their quickness and relentless pressure on defense to wear down the Bucs.
The game was tied 13-13 when Bowers hit a floater in the lane off an inbounds play to give Bryan County the lead for good with 1:30 on the clock. That triggered a 15-4 surge that carried over into the second quarter from which McIntosh never recovered.
With Mincey scoring 13 points in the first half and Bowers adding 11 Bryan County held a 34-25 lead at the intermission.
In the third quarter the Bucs’ defense turned its attention to Mincey and Bowers only to see Campbell burn them for eight points as the lead ballooned to 16 points at 50-34.
“They were bigger,” Campbell said, “but we were able to box out and I thought we played good defense.”
After the MCA win Anderson said, “We came out firing and we just wore them down. This (No. 1 seed) is a testament to how hard the kids have worked.”