Round 2 roundup: Unranked Murray County girls, Southwest-Macon boys advance to quarterfinals

South Atlanta boys another team outside of top 10 still playing
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Credit: Stock image

Credit: Stock image

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The state playoffs resume Tuesday with the quarterfinals, and winners advance to the Final Four, with the semifinal round to be played at Georgia College in Milledgeville.

Among the quarterfinalists are three unranked teams: Murray County’s girls, Southwest-Macon’s boys and South Atlanta’s boys. Murray County coach Chris Tipton and Southwest’s Monquencio Hardnett spoke of their team’s second-round wins, and their upcoming opponents.


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Credit: Courtesy of

The Murray County Indians (23-6), champions of Region 7, beat Union County 46-41 in the second round to advance to the quarterfinals for the second year in a row under Tipton, in his third season. They’ll play at No. 6 Butler (21-9) on Tuesday.

The Indians rallied to advance, overcoming 1-for-19 shooting from the 3-point line heading into the fourth quarter, where they trailed by as many as eight points.

“We were really struggling to score against them,” Tipton said. “That caused us to put more pressure on ourselves, but our defense stayed really steady, and we held them to 23 points in the first half, and 18 points in the second half. We couldn’t score until, finally, in the fourth quarter, when we outscored them 16-6.”

Sophomore Callan Ledford’s 3-pointer with three minutes left tied the game and, with Tipton saying the Chatsworth crowd’s roaring cheers, “about blew the roof off the building.”

Another sophomore, Emma Blaylock, and freshman Miley McClure helped Ledford lead the rally, as the Indians turned the game around with a full-court press that produced key turnovers for points, and free throws that padded the lead late.

Ledford finished with 16 points, five rebounds, five steals and three assists. Though she was 1-for-10 from 3-point range, she was 9-for-10 from the free-throw line. McClure had 11 points and seven rebounds, and Blaylock had late steal for a fast-break lay-up, plus the foul, and completed the 3-point play.

Tipton said comeback wins earlier in the season against Heritage-Catoosa and Lumpkin County prepared the Indians for the comeback.

“This group is more battle-tested,” he said. “We’ve been in some close games this year, and had to come back. We’re really young. We start one senior, one junior, two sophomores and a freshman, and I think being young puts you in those situations. It speaks to their character that they can dig in and find a way to grind it out.”

Prior to last year, the Indians hadn’t reached the quarterfinals since 1978. A win in Augusta would mean their first semifinals appearance since 1966, which came the year after their only championship.

In June, during the GHSA’s live period, the Indians and Butler played a formal scrimmage in the second annual Girls GBCA Live Event at the Suwanee Sports Academy, with Butler winning by three.

“Seeing them this summer was a blessing in disguise,” Tipton said. “When we played them, I felt like they were a top five team in the state. They’re lightning fast, and I mean next-level fast, and they have two phenomenal wings, Karen Nimo and Brayla Harris, who are about 5-foot-10, 5-foot-11, and shoot well. They’re going to use their speed to apply pressure.

The Indians have already proven they can compete with Butler.

“Were playing really good, and we’ve been casting this season since the summer,” Tipton said. “We’ve been working toward being one of the top teams in the state, and they’re starting to see it for themselves, because of all they work they’ve put in, and they’ve bought in. We’re two wins from a chapmpionship, and that’s something really exciting for a small-town team.”


Credit: Courtesy of GHSA

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Credit: Courtesy of GHSA

As a No. 2 seed, the Southwest Patriots (19-8) beat Region 1 champions Sumter County in Americus, 46-40, in the second round. They’re the quarterfinals for the first time since 1991, the last deep run under Don Richardson, who amassed six championships for the Patriots between 1973-1989.

Hardnett, like Tipton, is in this third season coaching his program.

“When I took this job, I took it with the mindset of coach Donald Richardson, and with the former players in mind,” Hardnett said. “There’s an excitement here now that we’re back to our winning ways, but my way, with my own twist, and I’m thankful for the community and the young men in our program.”

With the score tied heading into the fourth quarter, the Patriots kicked it up a notch defensively, which led to the win.

“We knew what they wanted to do offensively, so we locked down on man-to-man to see if we could get some stops together, and that was the difference,” Hardnett said.

Sophomore Chase Dupree’s basket with three minutes left put the Patriots up by seven, and his and-1 layup again put them up seven with 2:45 left. Hardnett said that along with Dupree, sophomore CJ Howard and junior Brandon Ashley controlled the game down the stretch, helping the Patriots to four key defensive stops.

Dupree and junior Kyle Jefferson each had a team-high 14 points, and Howard had nine points.

The Patriots now play at No. 5 Columbia (27-3), with their first semifinals appearance since 1990 on the line.

“Columbia has superb guard play, and you need that at tournament time,” Hardnett said. “I think a lot of their success is due to their guard play. They rebound very well, and they play pressure defense to create turnovers, so it’s imperative we take care of the ball.”

The Patriots are winning with just two seniors on the team, neither of who are currently in the starting lineup. Hardnett is optimistic moving forward.

“I’m really excited about the way our guys are playing right now,” he said. “They’re playing together, for each other, and it’s all about defense. Our guards have had success and have carried us, and we’ve got Kyle and (senior) Daniel Bennett inside, and from the trainers all the way to the last guy on the bench, everyone is doing their job right now, and we’re excited to be playing for the opportunity to represent the city of Macon and the surrounding counties with this chance to reach the Final Four.”

Sources: MaxPreps, Georgia High School Basketball Project