All season long it appeared local Wiregrass powers G.W. Long and Geneva County girls teams were headed on a collision course to a regional tournament showdown.
On Friday, the two teams completed the destination to that showdown, earning regional semifinal wins.
Long, the defending region champs, shook off determined Samson for a 47-32 win in a game actually closer than the final indicates. Geneva County, meanwhile, dominated outmatched Reeltown 58-21.
The third-ranked Rebels (26-5) and fourth-ranked Lady Dawgs (25-5) will meet for the regional title Tuesday at 4 p.m. with the winner advancing to the Class 2A state tournament in Birmingham.
It will be the sixth meeting in the last two years between the two, which includes the regional finals last year won by G.W. Long.
“We expect a fight,” G.W. Long coach Jody Hughes said. “Geneva County is a great ball team.”
The Rebels got all they wanted from Samson (21-7) on Friday. After three quarters, Long led just 30-29.
A basket by Long’s Emmaline Hughes and a 3-pointer by Samson’s Alli Goodwin tied the game at 32 with 6:36.
Rebel point guard Makenna Long then provided four big plays in the next three minutes, helping G.W. Long to a 41-32 lead.
She hit a bank shot, earned a steal leading to a Emmaline Hughes fastbreak layup, added another bank shot after a Katie Ann Mixon offensive rebound and finished the sequence with a kickout assist for a Mixon 3-pointer.
“I thought she stepped up in critical situations and scored some buckets in critical situations to create the lead so we could pull the ball out and control the clock,” Jody Hughes said.
The Rebels added seven more points, while shutting out Samson in the final 6:36 and allowing only one basket overall in the final period.
While happy with the win, Hughes the Rebel coach said it wasn’t a good showing for his team, which missed countless inside shots and had 16 turnovers.
“It was a tough night for us,” Hughes said. “We didn’t play well and didn’t shoot well. We missed way too many shots in the paint but I give credit to their defense as they played good defense.”
He added, “It was one of those nights. You are going to have an off night. This is not the time you want to have them. We got away with one.”
Mary Beth Long, despite struggling inside in the final three quarters, led the Rebels with 23 points and seven rebounds. Emmaline Hughes had 14 points and seven rebounds. Makenna Long had only six points, but earned nine steals.
Samson was led by Brantley Edberg and Godwin with nine points each — all off three 3-pointers each. Kinley Johnson added eight points.
Geneva County girls 58, Reeltown 21: Six minutes into the game, it was tied 6-6. Eight minutes later, Geneva County led 21-6 late in the second quarter and was well on its way to the win.
Charlianna Boutwell led Geneva County with 23 points, highlighted by five 3-pointers. Anri Davis had 12 points and 11 rebounds.
University of Tennessee commitment Karoline Striplin had just 10 points and nine rebounds, struggling and hitting only 4-of-11 from the floor. She earned six blocked shots, five in the first half.
Abby Land had a solid overall game with nine points, nine rebounds, six assists and four steals.
Tantya Haynes led Reeltown with nine points and seven rebounds.
Geneva County boys 60, Ariton 34: Ariton took the fight early to Geneva County. The Bulldogs responded in the final three quarters.
With sensational sophomore Emmanuel Henderson leading the way, the Bulldogs outscored the Purple Cats 45-19 the last three periods to overcome a 15-15 first-period tie.
Geneva County (26-5) advanced to Tuesday’s regional finals against the winner of Friday’s late game between Daleville and Barbour County.
In reaching the finals, the Bulldogs matched the longest postseason advancement in school history. The 1999 team also made the regional finals. No GCHS team has reached the state semifinals.
“It is the second time in school history we have been to the Elite Eight,” Geneva County head coach Josh Thompson said. “We started out a little shaky, but in the second half we really locked in physically and didn’t allow them second chances.”
Ariton, which reached the regional tournament for the first time in school history, finished the season 14-17.
Henderson had a monster performance in powering the Bulldogs, finishing with 24 points, 12 rebounds, seven steals and five assists. He also had three fastbreak slam dunks.
“He is unbelievable,” Thompson said. “He is a stud and he is just a sophomore. I am glad he is on our team.”
J’quan Broxson had 19 points and eight rebounds and Colby Fuller had 10 points for Geneva County. Trey Williams earned eight rebounds.
Maddux Herring led Ariton with 12 points, all on four 3-pointers. Isaiah Johnson had seven points. Hayes Floyd led the Purple Cats with 11 rebounds. Landon Tyler added nine rebounds and six steals, but Ariton was hurt by 23.2 percent shooting (13-of-52), including just 19.4 percent in the final three quarters (7-of-36).
Barbour County 84, Daleville 59: Barbour County led virtually the whole game and had five players score in double figures in an 84-59 Class 2A Southeast Regional Tournament rout of the Warhawks at Garrett Coliseum.
The Jaguars (24-10) moved to the regional tournament finals. They will face Geneva County on Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. The winner will advance to the state tournament in Birmingham on Feb. 24.
“I think it will be a good game as it seems we match up pretty well because both of us have length and size on the inside,” Barbour County head coach Steve Fryer said. “Both of us like to run up-tempo, so it will be a good game for everybody to come out and see.”
Daleville’s season came to an end at 18-11.
Daleville had a 3-2 lead less than a minute into the game on a Tomar Hobdy 3-pointer, but a Ralpheal Williams layup and dunk pushed the Jaguars up 6-3. They never trailed again.
The Warhawks, behind the play of Peanut Bloodsaw and Hobdy, stayed close throughout the first quarter before a 3-pointer with 8 seconds left by Jaborius Bennett gave Barbour County a 23-15 lead at quarter’s end.
The Jaguars built a double-digit lead early in the second quarter and never looked back. They outscored Daleville 26-15 in the second quarter to go up 49-30 at halftime. They led 68-39 after three quarters.
“Overall, we played a really good game,” Fryer said. “We came out, got the momentum and got an up-tempo game. There is always room for improvement, but overall I think we played a good game. We are ready to move on to the next game on Tuesday.”
Willie Screws led the Jaguars with 23 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and four steals. He hit 6-of-10 shots and 11-of-14 free throws.
Williams had 17 points, including three dunks, and nine rebounds. Javier Walker followed with 14 points, DeAunjai Williams had 12 points off the bench and Ziquayvion Nelson had 10 points to finish out the five in double figures.
“That means we have balanced scoring,” Fryer said of having reach double digits. “The last three games coming into the tournament we have actually had five guys each night in double figures. I hope we can continue to do that because it is hard to guard us when we do that.”
Daleville was led by Hobdy with 14 and Cam Giles and Jordan McDonald with 10 points each.