NAHUNTA -- When Brooks County needed another player to step up Saturday night, Candace Reynolds answered the call.
Held to just a single basket in the first half, the senior forward bore down on defense and on the boards. For good measure, she scored 13 second-half points to join three other starters in double figures as the second-seeded Lady Trojans (20-7) pulled away for a 58-44 win over No. 3 Mitchell-Baker in the first round of the GHSA Class AA girls' basketball tournament at Brantley County.
Brooks County advanced to play Macon County, a 62-47 winner over East Laurens, next Friday at 4 p.m. in a South Sectional match-up at the Albany Civic Center. The Lady Trojans are the only Region 2-AA girls' squad to reach the second round.
Reynolds' resurgence helped Brooks County avoid an embarrassing loss to the inexperienced Lady Eagles (9-21), who had only two seniors on the roster. The Lady Trojans had a clear height advantage, but many a solid pass into the paint ended up as a careless turnover in the first half. Vineisha Mitchell hit a jumper at the end of the half to give Mitchell-Baker a surprising 25-24 lead.
"We were getting what we wanted (but) we were rushing it," said Brooks County coach Todd Cason. "That caused us to be off a little bit. But I was thinking if we just (calmed) down a little bit and took our time ... we'd get everything we wanted inside. If my post players keep playing like that, we're going to be fine."
Reynolds had a shorter diagnosis.
"We were probably too crunked," she said.
Mitchell-Baker went scoreless for the first 5:38 of the third quarter as Brooks County retook the lead with a 13-2 run. Key in that sequence was Reynolds' three-point play with 1:44 left in the quarter that gave the Lady Trojans a 35-27 lead, its biggest to that point. That play energized her and gave Brooks County the momentum permanently.
"We just had to play defense and run our plays," she said. "We just had to slow down."
Reynolds was far from the only player to pick up big points for Brooks County. Point guard Shondra Hill and center Surtyria Wright scored 14 points apiece, while forward Monica Seay added 13. Even with Mitchell-Baker's mass substitutions, Cason's iron-lunged quartet never wilted.
"I really think all five of my (starters) can score in double figures if they just become a little more aggressive," he said.
Mitchell scored 11 points to lead the Lady Eagles.
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