ROBERTA - For a while early on, Crawford County played like it was in a hurry to get to the state semifinals.
The Eagles rushed on offense and threw the ball away and then struggled at the free-throw line. If they didn't fix a few things, all they would be rushing for was the end of the season.
"They came out a little hyped up," Crawford County head coach Clyde Zachery said of his young players. "I told them to get settled down and play. We were throwing the ball all over the place."
Crawford County calmed down and held off Thomasville 80-65 on Wednesday in a GHSA Class AA quarterfinal game before another overflow crowd.
The Eagles improved to 26-3 and will face Swainsboro, a 59-47 winner over Model, at 4:45 p.m. on Friday at Columbus State in the semifinals. The Bulldogs' season ends at 22-9.
"They came at us hard," Zachery said. "I'm just happy we survived."
Junior William Jarrell led Crawford County with 21 points while sophomore forward Marcal Knolton added 18 and junior Monkeize Moore 16. Jay Bowdry paced Thomasville with 16 points. Jordan Willis chipped in 15 and Shedric Cooper 12.
Thomasville, which had played several big schools this season, was ready for a battle and took the action to the Eagles early. Most of the Bulldogs' first-quarter points came on drives or baskets in the paint, and they led 16-15 after one quarter.
"Just let them play through it," Zachery said of his strategy in the shaky early going. "We knew they were a good ballclub. ... They came at us hard."
The Eagles found some rhythm in the second quarter after going down by five points, taking off on a 10-2 run that would have been better had they were sharper than 4-for-8 at the line in that span.
Crawford County turned a 27-26 lead with three minutes to an 11-point advantage before settling for a 37-29 halftime lead.
It was the Bulldogs' turn to speed things up, and they opened the third quarter with nine points before the Eagles scored, taking a 38-37 lead with 4:07 left on Gregory Hobbs' layup off a loose ball. The lead lasted nine seconds, but the Bulldogs went back on top 42-40 on a Javier McGriff putback.
Crawford County muddled along and trailed by four twice before tying it at 47 with 1:06 left on two Jarrell free throws. Thomasville worked the rest of the clock but turned the ball over with four seconds left.
That figuratively opened the door.
Crawford County started the fourth with a 6-0 run and held off Thomasville's rallies. The Bulldogs went from a five-point deficit with 3:15 left to 11 at the 2:10 mark.
The Eagles made 11-of-13 free throws during one stretch in the fourth quarter and scored 33 points in the quarter. Knolton, who spent most of halftime getting sick outside, had nine points in the quarter while Moore had seven.
Zachery's ammunition at practice will be about free throws - the Eagles were 9-of-17 in the first quarter en route to a 63.4-percent night - but that's nothing new.
"Missed a lot of free throws at the beginning but made some at the end that helped us hold on to it," Zachery said. "We shoot about 55 percent. We've had a couple of good nights, but overall, we normally miss anywhere from 15 to 20 something free throws a night."
"Rebounding, we didn't do a great job. (Thomasville) crashed the board. We didn't get what they call the 50-50 balls. Guards didn't rebound, and (Thomasville) got practically every long rebound there. You can't do that."
CRAWFORD COUNTY 80, THOMASVILLE 65
Thomasville16-13-18-18 - 65
Crawford County 15-22-10-33 - 80
Thomasville: Hayes 3, Bowdry 16, Willis 15, Walden 7, Cooper 12, McGriff 6, Peralta 2, Hammons 2, Hobbs 2.
Crawford County: Bluford 3, Jarrell 21, Knolton 18, Moore 16, Raines 6, Saffold 7, Wiggins 8, Reeves 1.
3-pointers: Crawford County 3 (Saffold 1, Raines 1, Bluford).
Record: Thomasville 22-9, Crawford County 26-3.
Next: Thomasville season complete; Crawford County vs. Swainsboro, 4:45 p.m., Saturday, Columbus State.