FORSYTH -- Johnny Dixon hoped the misses wouldn’t haunt his team.
But the Rutland girls basketball head coach watched more than 20 layups and short-range shots in the paint bounce any which way but through the hoop in the first half Friday night against Mary Persons.
The Hurricanes led Mary Persons by 13 points at the half, but miss after miss loomed large, particularly with the Bulldogs’ top two scorers sitting on the bench for most of the first half.
Then KeKe Calloway returned.
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The Telegraph’s 2012-13 All-Middle Georgia Player of the Year scored 14 points in the third quarter to erase the Bulldogs’ deficit. The junior finished with 22 points -- all in the second half -- to lead the Bulldogs (16-2, 9-1 GHSA Region 2-AAAA) to a 48-44 victory as they took sole possession of first place in the region.
“We talked about in the locker room about the wasted opportunities,” Dixon said. “Hopefully, it wouldn’t come back to bite us. But it bit us.”
The Hurricanes (15-3, 8-2) built the early lead despite missing so many easy shots. The Bulldogs came out flat offensively, and the struggles were exacerbated when head coach Kurt Greene sat Calloway and Tyesha Davis for much of the first half, leaving them with a dearth of scorers on the court.
“I had to sit them down at let them think about what they were doing,” Greene said.
The Bulldogs didn’t look too excited to return to the floor after halftime, but Greene stressed at the half that the deficit was manageable despite playing a woeful first half.
Davis made a pair of 3-pointers to open the third quarter after the Hurricanes’ lead stretched to 15. Calloway scored Mary Persons’ next 11 points, tying the game on a deep 3-pointer with 1:23 left in the third. Davis, who scored 13, gave the Bulldogs their first lead with a basket with 35 seconds left, and Calloway closed the quarter with a 3-pointer. The Bulldogs outscored Rutland 22-6 in the third quarter.
Calloway stretched the Bulldogs’ lead to five on a floater to open the fourth quarter.
Rutland battled back and tied the game early in the fourth on a basket by Breanca Davis, marking the first of eight ties or lead changes in the next four minutes.
Baskets by Maya Stewart and Davis broke the trend of trading scores and gave the Bulldogs a lead they did not relinquish.
The Hurricanes did appear to tie the game on a basket with six seconds left, but the referees called traveling on the made layup.
Calloway made a pair of free throws with five seconds left to make it a two-possession game and ensure the victory.
The Rutland boys (16-3, 8-2) rolled to a 106-58 victory, led by 25 points from Shakenneth Williams. Ty’lik Evans added 18 points and Timori Northcutt scored 17 for the Hurricanes. Tra Taylor led Mary Persons (9-9, 2-7) with 20.
The Hurricanes scored 25 or more points in each quarter, including a high of 30 in the fourth.