Lady Jets overcome 22-point deficit against Georgia Highlands to win fifth straight regular season conference title; Jets lose by four
“The Lady Jets refused to lose,” said South Georgia Technical College President Dr. John Watford after the South Georgia Tech Lady Jets overcame a 22-point deficit to clinch their fifth consecutive Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association (GCAA) regular season conference title in a 68 – 66 battle against the second place Georgia Highlands Lady Chargers and former Lady Jets head coach Brandon Harrell. The Jets were not as fortunate. They lost 70 – 66 to the top-ranked Georgia Highlands Chargers after having an early 13-point lead.
Sophomore guard Shamari Tyson scored the winning basket with 4.6 seconds remaining on the clock to give the Lady Jets the lead for only the second time in the 40-minute contest. She was also the Lady Jets high scorer with a total of 29 points. Twenty-two of her points came in the second half and she scored 10 of those in the final three minutes to clinch the come from behind victory for the Lady Jets.
“This was an unbelievable game,” said South Georgia Technical College Lady Jets head coach James Frey. “I couldn’t believe it when we got behind 22 points with a little over a minute left in the first half. It was like a bad nightmare. We were only hitting 22% of our shots. We were two of 13 from the three-point line and then we were three of 11 from the foul line.”
The Lady Jets were able to cut that deficit to 18 points by the end of the first half but went into the locker room down 39 – 21. This was the largest deficit that the Lady Jets have had to overcome this season which currently has them at 16 – 0 in the conference and 26 – 2 overall. The Lady Jets only two losses this season were by seven points or less. Their first loss was to St. Petersburg College in the third game of the season and their first road trip. They lost 66 – 59. The Lady Jets’ other loss was to nationally ranked Shelton State, 68 – 63 in the Lady Jets Holiday Classic after Christmas.
But just as unbelievable as the first half was, the second half was even more so. The Lady Jets never panicked. In the third quarter, they were still down by 20 points with 4:45 remaining on the clock. They outscored Georgia Highlands 14 – 2 in less than four minutes to close the gap to 49 – 41 with 1:11 remaining. Georgia Highlands scored four unanswered points to pull ahead 53 – 41 at the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Lady Jets outscored Georgia Highlands 27 – 13. They finally got their first lead of the game with 24.7 seconds remaining when Shamari Tyson hit a jump shot to put them ahead 66 – 64. She hit another shot with 4.6 seconds to clinch the victory. She had 15 points in the last five minutes of the game.
“I can’t say enough good about the way our team played in the fourth quarter,” said Coach Frey. “Like Dr. Watford said, they refused to lose. With less than a minute remaining in the game, Shamari Tyson got sick but she went back on the court and was the difference in the game.”
The NJCAA third team All-American as a freshman had some help from her teammates. Sophomores Yasriyyah Wazeerud-Din and Anna McKenzie closed out the night with 11 and 10 points respectively. Yasriyyah Wazeerud-Din hit five consecutive free throws in the second half and Anna hit two key three-pointers. Anna also came up with three rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Sophomore Oumy Gueye came off the bench and scored six points, four of which were in the fourth quarter. Freshman center Femme Sikuzani scored five points, recorded six rebounds and one steal. Hope Butera accounted for three points and Veronica Charles and Moe Shida had two points each.
This was the Lady Jets eighth GCAA regular season conference title in the 15-year history of the program. It was Coach Frey’s sixth in the past seven years and his sixth in eight years as head coach of the Lady Jets. The Lady Jets are currently 36 – 0 in the conference over the past two seasons.
South Georgia Tech’s women still have two regular season GCAA games but the win over Georgia Highlands allowed them to clinch the title and earn the right to host the NJCAA Region XVII tournament semi-finals and finals on February 28th and 29th.
The winner of the Region XVII tournament will travel to the winner of the Region X site for District J championship game on March 7th for the right to advance to the national tournament. Spartanburg Methodist College from Spartanburg, South Carolina, is currently leading that Region with a 4 – 1 conference record and a 16 – 7 overall record. The Lady Jets played Spartanburg Methodist in the Lady Jets Thanksgiving Classic and won 77 – 57. Central Georgia Tech beat Spartanburg 97 – 85 in that same tournament but Spartanburg defeated East Georgia twice this season 67 – 60 and 92 – 79.
Following the Lady Jets action against Georgia Highlands, the Jets took to the court. The two teams matched up pretty evenly throughout the game despite Georgia Highland’s top ranking in the conference with a 10 – 1 and 19 – 5 overall record.
The Jets were ahead 31 – 21 at the end of the first half and were able to maintain that lead throughout the first six minutes of the second half. Georgia Highlands went up 40 – 38 with 13:11 remaining in the game. The two teams battled back and forth for the next five minutes but Georgia Highland took a 53 – 51 lead with 8:03 left on the clock and never relinquished it.
South Georgia Tech’s men closed the game to 67 – 66 with 10.1 seconds on the clock and regained the ball for a chance at a last shot come back. A turnover and two fouls in 10 seconds allowed Georgia Highlands to hang on to the 70 – 66 win and remain in first place in the GCAA Division I men’s standings. South Georgia Tech is currently seventh at 3 – 9 and 10 – 16.
Sophomore Justin Johnson led the Jets in scoring with 20 points. Sophomore Toriano Lewis came off the bench to add 14 points, two rebounds, an assist and two steals and then Jalen Reynolds also came off the bench to close out the double digit scoring with 12 points and seven rebounds.
Sophomore point guard Jaylen McKinney and sophomore center Merdy Bata both added six points. Jarius Carroll and Tabais Long both scored three points and Austin Hadden closed out the scoring with two points.
Both the Jets and the Lady Jets will travel to Southern Crescent for a conference double-header on Wednesday, Feb. 19th at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. The Lady Jets travel to Albany Tech for their last regular season game on Feb. 22nd at 1 p.m. The Jets will travel to Waycross on Saturday, Feb. 22nd to face East Georgia and then go to Albany Tech on February 26th. The Jets last regular season home game will be February 29th at 7 p.m. following the women’s NJCAA Region XVII championship game.
The men’s tournament will begin on March 3rd with the quarterfinal round at the site of the highest seeded teams. The semi-finals and finals will be played March 6th and 7th at the top seeded team’s home court.