BARNESVILLE -- The choice to shoot the ball from behind the 3-point line served Bleckley County well Monday in the play-in round of the GHSA Class 4-AA tournament held at Lamar County with the Royals draining 16 3-pointers.
But as blazing hot as Bleckley County was from the perimeter, Macon County exceeded that in the paint, racing to an early lead and turning back multiple rallies by the Royals to win 73-68 to advance to the next round of the tournament.
Macon County faces Taylor County at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Putnam County. The winner will advance to the tournament semifinals and earn a state playoff berth.
Last year, we made the Elite Eight with 12 seniors, and we are going through a whole different team, Macon County head coach Charles Ivey said. Were just hoping that we can catch fire tournament time.
The Bulldogs Marquel Wiggins was unable to be solved by the Royals. He scored a game-high 27 points and pulled down multiple rebounds, some of which were converted into critical second-chance points.
And the sophomore stepped up in a big way multiple times in the fourth quarter. After Bleckley County had cut the Macon County lead to 58-50 with 5:09 to play, Wiggins scored three baskets in a row to extend the Bulldogs lead to 64-50.
Then, with the Bulldogs lead cut to 66-61 with less than a minute to play, Wiggins got snagged a rebound of his own inside shot to move the Macon County lead back to 69-61 with 51 seconds to play. Those points ended up looming large after the Royals converted two 3-pointers in the final 40 seconds before coming up five points short of the win.
Macon County was on the cusp of cruise control early in the third quarter, leading 29-11.
But the Royals awoke, energized from 3-point range. A pair of Marquez Pitts 3-pointers and another by Jeremy Marshall cut the Macon County lead to 49-40 with 2:09 to play in third. Macon County did its best to pull away early in the fourth with a 7-0 run. But Bleckley County dug deep again, outscoring the Bulldogs 15-8 during the next four minutes, getting all but one of their scores via the 3-point shot with three of them coming from DJ Lemmon.
Lemmon had 20 points to lead Bleckley County, draining six 3-pointers. Marshall, who had 13 points, hit four 3-point shots with Marquez Pitts also converted four 3-pointers.
But the deficit turned out to be too much for the Royals to overcome, as the Bulldogs outlasted Bleckley County the rest of the way.
We have struggled mightily at times this year, but so many times we have battled back, Bleckley County head coach John Chance said. Im proud of those guys right there. Their record is not indicative of the heart that they have got.
Crawford County advanced to the region quarterfinals of the girls bracket with a 35-29 win against Lamar County. The Eagles, who were led by Cheyenne Healds 13 points, face Putnam County at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
Lamar County was led by the six-point efforts of Dinesha Robinson and Kenesha Sullivan.