Washington County doesn’t have any big names, any particular go-to players who can take over a game as the Golden Hawks have in years past.
But it has a region championship. Jawan Dukes’ layup off a pass from Monterrio Maze with 2.6 seconds left lifted Washington County to a 49-47 win Saturday night over host Dublin in the GHSA Region 3-2A Tournament championship.
The game was chippy all night, with Washington County head coach Carlos Hope earning a third-quarter technical. Washington County guard Chris Parker and Dublin guard Kameron Pauldo were whistled for matching technicals at the end of the first quarter.
Pauldo was then given a second one with 2:02 left in the game, earning him an ejection and, according to head coach Paul Williams, a seat on the bench for two games.
Williams was reluctant to talk about the officiating aspect of the game, which included a warning to the music operators and the ejection of a fan along with several warnings on the court.
Dublin won 56-41 in early January and 75-63 on Jan. 31.
“We showed the kids the film (Saturday),” Hope said. “We told them it was more of us than (Dublin). They’re a good basketball team. We thought we made some mental mistakes and some lax defensively.
“We wanted to be sound here. We wanted to do a better job of attacking them.”
The difference in those two game and the finale, from the other side?
“I don’t know if I can really say that to the newspaper guy,” Williams said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. I can say that.”
Holden Baisden fouled out early in the fourth quarter, and Pauldo got his third foul early in the second quarter and sat for most of that quarter. He still finished with a team-high 18 points.
Williams said he was told Pauldo, who was on the floor after a miss, was given the second technical for language, but Williams didn’t think it was directed at the official.
Washington County made one free throw and didn’t score on the possession, leaving it tied at 43. Bruce Guyton made two free throws for a Dublin lead, but Keith Foster answered with a high-arcing runner off the glass with 47 seconds left. He missed the accompanying free throw.
Guyton then missed two at the line with 9.8 seconds left.
Foster got the rebound and passed to Maze, who pushed it up the left side and saw an opening to Dukes.
“(Dukes) missed a couple freebies early, and we told him to keep being aggressive,” Hope said. “‘You’re going to get the opportunity.’ The next time, he’ll be strong, and he was strong.”
Maze led Washington County with 13 points while Jajuan Curry added 10. Guyton had 13 and Torian Holder 10 for the Irish.
Bleckley County’s boys had a huge second half to roll past Southwest 72-50 for third place.
“Our guys fought back to win it,” said Williams, who didn’t see the execution he usually sees from his 23-5 team. “We had a three-point lead, four-point lead. We get a rebound, they knock us down. We grab a rebound, we get a tech with a minute something to go.
“We’ve just got to use this to make us stronger. The thing that hurts (is) these guys put so much time in, you know how bad they want it. And for it to be, well, let me put it this way, to be decided that way is kind of rough.”
Washington County will nevertheless enjoy its first region title in three years, and a little more than usual, considering the opponent and location.
“Dublin’s been averaging about 70 points a game, and we held them to 40-something here,” Hope said. “They’re scrappy, they’re well-coached. Number 2 team in the state, and to come in here … I don’t think they’ve lost too many games in this place, the Rock the last few years.
“This is one of the toughest places to play in the whole state of Georgia.”
Bleckley County girls 61, Dodge County 54
The first two times Dodge County and Bleckley County played, there was little suspense in the second half.
After all, Indians led by 15 and 19 at halftime en route to wins of 64-44 and 69-43.
That thing about beating teams a third time?
It came true as Bleckley County held on to knock off Dodge County in the girls championship game.
“I think we’ve gotten better, and were able to handle that pressure,” Bleckley County head coach Jenny Manning said. “We’ve gotten better as a basketball team since then. Their defense is pretty good, but I think we’ve gotten to the point where we can handle it a little bit better.”
Washington County’s girls took third place with a 70-36 romp over Dublin, led by 27 points from Nijeria Jordan. Dublin’s Alexus Carr had 15.
For the first few minutes, it appeared like the third game might bear a resemblance to the first two, with Bleckley County going scoreless for more than half of the first quarter.
Not that Dodge County was doing much better. The Royals tied it at 4 with two buckets in less than a minute.
“We have some young kids,” said Manning, who has only three seniors. “We had two freshmen on the court a lot.”
And fortunately for the Royals, they didn’t play that way, taking a 22-19 lead in the second quarter and 22-21 at the half.
Dodge County got hot and went up 30-26 only for the Royals to answer, mostly in transition, with a 10-2 run for a 36-32 lead. The Indians tied it at 41 and 43, but were within 52-51 with 1:44 left.
A free throw from Aleyah Whitehead and four points from Fellesia Young put the Royals up 57-53. Dodge County added one free throw, but couldn’t get any closer.
The Royals had a sharp night passing, especially Young and Whitehead, who regularly found open teammates for quality shots.
“We took care of the basketball a little bit better,” Manning said. “We had a lot of turnovers the first two times. I think we took care of he basketball a lot better, made the smarter decisions, saw the floor better.”