Griffin finally qualified for the state basketball playoffs, rallying from a 14-0 deficit to upset the Dutchtown Lady Bulldogs 46-45 Tuesday evening in the quarterfinals of the Region 4-AAAA Tournament held at Woodland High School. With the win, the Lady Bears improve to 12-13 overall and advance to the tournament semifinals on Friday at 4 p.m. against Jonesboro. Dutcthown, the No. 2 seed in Division A, ends its season with a 17-7 record.
The win for Div. B No. 3 seed Griffin also clinches a state-playoff berth for the Lady Bears for the first time in 11 years.
“That’s a big relief for us,” said longtime Lady Bears assistant coach Mike Willis, who has been with the team throughout the entire state-playoff drought.
Dutchtown looked like it would extend Griffin’s state drought for another year the way it started the game. The Lady Bulldogs blitzed Griffin 14-0 in the first quarter before Griffin’s Xandria Hosely converted a 3-point play with 4:01 left in the period to make it 14-3. That sparked Griffin on a huge run to take a 15-14 lead at the end of the period.
Griffin then scored 5 more points to complete a 20-0 run and lead 20-14 with 6:08 left in the second quarter. Dutchtown cut the lead to 20-18 but the Lady Bears went on a mini-run and held a 26-22 lead at halftime.
Both teams played tight in the third quarter and Griffin led 34-32 heading into the fourth quarter. In the final quarter, Griffin went on a 6-0 run: ReRe Mangham scored and Victoria “Kool Aid” Middlebrooks got a steal and layup and a rebound layup to give the Lady Bears a 40-32 lead with over 4 minutes left. Dutchtown went on a 5-0 run afterwards to get within 3 at 40-37 with 3:00 left. Mangham then made a nice pass to Hosely for a layup and the 42-39 Griffin lead and with 1:51 remaining, Griffin point guard Shacoria Jones (15 points) twisted her ankle and didn’t return.
Griffin didn’t panic. Ashton Elliott went coast-to-coast for a layup to make the score 44-39 and after she took a hard foul, Elliott sank two clutch free throws to give Griffin the lead for good at 46-39 with 46 seconds left. Dutchtown senior Domonique Clune sank two 3-pointers in the final seconds for the final 46-45 margin.
“We showed up ready to play tonight,” said Hosely, one of 3 seniors who’ll be making their first trips to state. “It really feels good to get past Dutchtown and make state.”
“Our team motto is play hard, play smart and play together and that’s what we did,” said senior Chelsea Prather.
Elliott (13 points) was upset with the hard foul, but she did what she had to do at the line.
“I was mad at first, but Chelsea and ReRe calmed me down and I hit my free throws,” said Elliott, a sophomore who didn’t play in the region tournament last year. “I had to make them to help us get this win.”
Clune led Dutchtown with 16 points and Amanda Brodie added 14.