The Valdosta Daily Times
Even with a 17-point lead midway through the third quarter, Berrien coach Aric Mawdesley saw the tight finish coming.
After all Mawdesley and his Berrien boys basketball team had lived through that exact scenario before. However, the Rebels flipped the script Monday night, withstanding host Brooks County’s late barrage of 3-pointers to hold on to a 71-66 win in a Region 1-AA tournament elimination game. Berrien advances to face third-seeded Cook in another elimination game today at Early County.
“I was actually sitting there with my coaches and said, ‘This is about where we’ve been before, and then they make a run,’” Mawdesley said.
“(Sharod Chapell) got in and started it lighting it up. And once he made our defense extend, that’s when it became difficult.”
Berrien, which improved to 9-17 and garnered its first win against Brooks this season, extended its lead to 39-22 on a Vernon Payne putback with 4:15 left in the third. The bucket capped a 6-0 Berrien run that helped the Rebels stretch its double-digit halftime advantage.
As if on cue, Brooks County’s Chapell promptly drained a 3-pointer 10 seconds later and the Trojans, who end the season 5-22, started to catch fire. Held scoreless in the first half, Chapell opened the second half with a 3-pointer that ended a drought from the field of nearly 10 minutes.
He added another 3-pointer with 2:22 left in the third to help keep Brooks close as it cut the Berrien lead to 41-34. It was the first time the lead was in single digits since midway through the second quarter.
The Rebels, though, ended the quarter on a 6-0 run that ended when Tariq Alexander hit a floater just before the buzzer and Berrien led by 13 with eight minutes to go.
But the Trojans, much like Mawdesley figured, got hot in the fourth. Tavist Mobley, who scored Brooks’ first 11 points on his way to 16 total, opened the fourth with a 3, the first of six for the Trojans in the quarter as they hit 13 in the game.
“Every time we’ve played Brooks this year, they always have a run in that fourth quarter where they just don’t miss,” Mawdesley added. “We could have played a little better defense, but not much. They just buried shot after shot.”
Chapell hit three more in the fourth as he led Brooks with 20 points and John Slater added two 3s and the Trojans cut the deficit to six on Chapell’s fifth 3 of the game with 4:39 left. When Slater drained his third and final one with 3:01 left, the Rebel advantage was down to 63-59. A bucket from Anthony Martin then cut it to 67-64 with 1:53 left.
But Brooks couldn’t get any closer as they managed only a mid-range jumper for Slater after that with 46 seconds left that kept it a three-point game.
“It’s hard to put away a team that can make that many 3s in one quarter,” Mawdesley said. “But we still found a way to put it away.”
Berrien, which split its regular season meetings with Cook, were led by Justin Owens with 19 points. The Rebels’ four other starters also finished in double figures as Alexander and Quinton Tisby each had 13 and Payne and A.J. Wooten both finished with 12.
That balanced scoring was key for Berrien, as was a stingy defensive performance in the second quarter. After Slater, who finished with 19 points, hit a pair of free throws on the Trojans’ first trip of the quarter, Brooks County didn’t score again until Dessie Brown hit a free throw with 38 seconds left before half. That drought allowed Berrien to build a 31-17 halftime lead.
Brooks County 60
Berrien girls 32
There was no drama in the girls elimination game as the Trojans led 28-15 at halftime and quickly built on from there. After a 3-pointer from Berrien’s Danielle King early in the third, Brooks scored 16 straight to push the lead to 30.
The Trojans, who move to 10-17, advance to face host Early County today in another elimination game. Berrien’s season ends at 8-17.
“The team was just motivated to play,” Brooks coach Lamar Thomas said. “I had a few seniors that didn’t want to lose today. We didn’t have the season that we wanted, so we’re just making sure that we give everything we have for these playoffs.
“In the playoffs, you can’t overlook anybody. It’s win or go home, so I just told my girls that they needed to play like it was their last game, and that’s what they did.”
Alicia Gertman led the Trojans with 22 points. King was the lone Rebel in double figures with 10.
“We set a goal at the beginning of the year to try and be region champions,” Thomas added. “We still have a chance to do that, so we want to do as much as we can to still try and reach that goal.”