THOMASVILLE — The Lee County girls basketball team couldn’t miss the first quarter. Still, Thomas County Central coach Jenny Johnson stayed calm. Her patience was rewarded as the Yellow Jackets cranked up the defensive intensity in the second half to soar past the Trojans 46-39.

“No they couldn’t (miss),” Johnson said. “And I told the kids that at halftime. I said there is no way they are going to make all the shots they made, in the second half. There’s no way because they didn’t miss. They made everything — inside, outside, everything.”

Lee County’s quick start came from all over the court. Yolanda Berryhill hit two 3-pointers, Brittny Pennison added another one, freshman center Breanna Neal was hitting inside and sophomore point guard Sam Posey was getting transition layups. In the quarter, the Trojans hit 9 of their 19 shots.

Central (9-7, 1-1 in Region 1-AAAA) managed to stay in striking distance due to some hot 3-point shooting of its own from freshmen Iesha Dunbar and Ashley Brooks. Dunbar nailed two and Brooks hit one to pull the Jackets within 14-9.

After remaining close in the second quarter, Central switched from a zone to a man defense and hounded Lee County for the remainder of the game. In the last 4:43 of the third quarter, Central’s swarming defense caused four turnovers to spark a 14-0 run to claim a 36-33 lead. After Chelsea Walden hit consecutive buckets, Dunbar added her fourth 3-point basket to give Central its first lead.

Dunbar led Central with 17 points, five coming late from the free throw line to seal the win. Walden added 12.

While the Central girls struggled from the outset, the Central boys could not sustain a strong start in falling 63-47.

The Jackets (1-12, 0-2) scored the game’s first five points as sophomore guard Demetrius Mickens hit a 3-point bucket and Xavier Mills added a layup. Central was able to maintain its solid play through the first quarter before a turnover epidemic cost them.

“We’re averaging about 20 turnovers a game,” coach Reginald Knight said. “We’ve just got to learn to handle the pressure and I don’t know when it’s going to come. We’ve just got to make decisions. That’s what basketball is all about, making the correct decision under pressure.”

Central topped that average in the first half, losing possession 21 times. Four straight turnovers late in the second quarter helped the Trojans turn a 26-19 lead into a 31-19 advantage.

The Jackets headed into halftime with momentum as Mills banked in a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded to pull within 35-25. However, Lee County answered with the first 12 points of the second half. DeVaughn Thomas led a balanced attack for the Trojans with 18. Nick Love added 14 and Marc Loman chipped in 11. Mickens and Eric Monroe paced the Jackets with 10 each.

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