FORT VALLEY -- Rickey Wray has waited much of the season for everything to click for his Peach County Trojans.
Wray watched perhaps the best example of everything coming together thus far Monday night as his Trojans beat Southwest 68-52 in the opening round of the GHSA Region 2-AAA tournament. The win clinched the third state playoff appearance in four years for Peach County, which beat Southwest for the first time in four tries this season.
Junior Avary Mitchell scored 24 points and pulled down 14 rebounds for the Trojans. Donovan Brown led Southwest with 17 points.
Peach County (10-15) will play regular-season region champion Carver-Columbus in the semifinals Thursday at home.
Never miss a local story.
“We hadn’t had the greatest regular season the last few years, but we’ve managed to pull it together at the right time,” Wray said. “That’s good, they’re showing a lot of fight. The season was a lot of mental errors, just not being focused. I told them all along they were a good team. ... I think our chemistry sometimes is very bad. We’re dialing different numbers. (Monday) for a change, we’re dialing the right numbers.”
Those right numbers helped push Peach County to a dream start in an elimination game. The Trojans scored the first 12 points of the game and led by as many as 15 in the second quarter.
Southwest (7-15) cut the led to as close as five on a three-point play by Brown with two minutes left in the third quarter and remained within seven early in the fourth quarter.
But the Trojans answered with a 10-0 run and pushed the lead to 17 midway through the fourth quarter. Southwest never got closer than 14 the rest of the game.
“We put more effort into this game (than the first three games against Southwest),” Mitchell said. “Really defensively. Coach talked about it all day (Sunday) at practice, we had to play as a team.”
Central (20-6) also earned a spot in the state playoffs -- the Chargers’ third straight playoff appearance and sixth in seven years -- with a 61-47 win over Pike County. Central will play Henry County -- a 70-43 winner over Jackson -- in the semifinals.
Charquez Jackson led Central with 17 points, while Darryl Hill added 10.
The game was never in question, but Central head coach Andre Taylor didn’t think his team played very sharp.
Central beat Pike County by 21 and 26 in the regular season, but the Chargers led by nine at the half. A strong third quarter pushed the lead to 20, but they struggled to maintain an offensive rhythm in the fourth quarter.
“Not too happy with that one,” Taylor said. “The effort that we put out there, that’s not going to get us anywhere. We played a great game this past Friday (in a win over Peach County), and then to come back and play like that (Monday) ... I’m disappointed. They see when they play together and get after it, what it produces. And they revert back to bad habits and stuff that we try to work with to get rid of all season and to come back to it in the region playoffs with a chance to keep you from going to the playoffs is just ridiculous.”