Photo by Heather Middleton
By Lee Wright
Special to the News-Daily
Playing host to the Region 4AAA Tournament semifinals, both Drew girls and boys basketball programs pulled off monumental victories in the young history of the respective teams. The Drew girls rode the play of junior forward Precious Person to stun No. 6-ranked Sandy Creek 55-43. And then in the boy's game, the Titans' Kalel Bolton recorded a steal with 20 seconds remaining in overtime and converted the go-ahead lay-up to give Drew a stunning 70-68 victory over No. 6-ranked Henry County.
The Drew girls will now face Eastside in Saturday's Region 4AAA championship, while the Drew boys will square off against No. 10-ranked Eagle's Landing in the Region 4AAA title game.
Head coach Candence Jackson's Titan girls started to pull away in the second period after leading 13-9 at the end of the first quarter. Dede Debose drained a 3-point basket to give Drew a 20-12 lead with five minutes remaining. After Sandy Creek cut the lead to two points, the Titans finished the half on a 6-0 run as Person converted a lay-up and Dominique Madison scored in the lane with 40 seconds remaining to give Drew a 31-23 lead at halftime.
The Titans twice stretched the lead to 12 points in the third quarter and then led by 11 points on a Person 3-point basket with 1:54 remaining. Sandy Creek cut the deficit to seven points at the end of the third quarter, and then trimmed the Drew lead to 45-41 with 3:06 remaining in the fourth quarter on a lay-up by Ariel Parker.
However, Drew stepped up the defensive intensity and Person converted 9-for-10 from the free throw line down the stretch. Person finished with a game-high 24 points, followed by Debose and Madison each with eight points.
"Unbelievable - words cannot describe this right now," said Jackson. "This speaks volumes and we are not finished yet. Every time we step on the court, we believe we can compete with the best."
The same can be said for head coach Jarrod Davis' Titans boys. It appeared as it Drew would run away with it against the talented Warhawks. Drew broke a 22-22 tie in the second quarter with a 13-0 run as Bolton drained a 3-point basket and center Antonio Garcia scored eight points on four straight jump shots in the lane. A put-back by wing Barry Mayes gave the Titans a 35-22 lead with 1:08 remaining.
However, trailing by 10 points at the end of the third quarter, Henry County made its move. The Warhawks methodically cut into the Titan lead utilizing its press. Finally, center Dre Soulder converted a 3-point play to tie the game 61-61 with 1:52 remaining in regulation. Kajawn Watts later hit a running jumper in the lane, and following a Drew turnover, Tae Bega drained a 3-point basket to give Henry County a 65-63 lead with 33 seconds remaining.
But Mayes was fouled driving to the basket for the Titans, and he calmly sank both free throws with 25 seconds remaining. The Titans then made a final defensive stand to force overtime.
In the extra session, the two teams traded leads before Mayes made a big steal and was fouled going for a lay-up with 37 seconds remaining. Hurt on the play, Mayes had to come out, and Bolton came in and sank one free throw to tie the game 68-68. On Henry County's ensuing possession, Bolton made the key steal on the right wing and drove coast-to-coast for the go-ahead lay-up with 20 seconds remaining.
Henry County had two shots at tying, but both were off the mark as time expired.
"It was a trememdous game," said Davis. "We played hard and they (Henry County) played hard. This will be a game that these kids will remember for the rest of their lives. We hung tough and didn't quit and now we are ready to face a tougher challenge tomorrow."
Mayes scored 23 points for Drew, while Corey Graves scored 11 points and Garcia scored 10 points. Bega scored 15 points for Henry County and Waits scored 11 points.