Special season continues for Trion girls; boys lose in first round

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Trion girls' basketball coach Garrett Brown distributes gum to his team before Wednesday's home game against Paideia in the first round of the GHSA Class A Division I state tournament.
Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Trion girls' basketball coach Garrett Brown distributes gum to his team before Wednesday's home game against Paideia in the first round of the GHSA Class A Division I state tournament.

TRION, Ga. — In the long history of Trion High School — the first official record is from the 1930s — the athletic programs have been known for, in several different eras, football, baseball, softball and wrestling.

Basketball has seldom been a strength. Until this year, that is.

The Lady Bulldogs and Bulldogs entered Wednesday's GHSA Class A Division I state playoffs as region champions, the first time in school history both programs did so in the same season.

It had been, in fact, a combined 37 seasons since the most recent region title, won by the boys in 2007. So, as both teams hosted first-round postseason games Wednesday in Trion's college-like arena, the sports-crazy community showed up in full force.

Though only one of the home teams survived the night — the girls rolled to a 48-29 win over Paideia, while the boys lost 61-48 to state-ranked Prince Avenue Christian — the evening was a reward for a historical season.

"I've heard this is the first time in school history where we've had boys and girls win region, and the football team won region as well," Trion girls' coach Garrett Brown said. "The community is excited. It's been a heck of a sports year here."

 

Brown's Lady Bulldogs (21-6) did what they've done all season Wednesday against Paideia — play suffocating full-court defense and let senior point guard I'ziah McCutchins do her thing.

The four-year starter, fresh off being honored as Region 7 player of the year for the second consecutive season, was front and center as Trion outscored the visitors 29-14 in the second half. The Lady Bulldogs will host Athens Christian in the second round either Friday or Saturday.

"She's the one that drives us," Brown said of McCutchins, who entered Wednesday averaging 19.7 points, five rebounds, 4.6 assists and four steals a game this season. "She's unselfish with the ball, even though she scores so well.

"She could average a lot more points, but she knows how to give the ball up and when to give it up. She wants to be that facilitator. It's nice to have someone like her."

Though she struggled with her shot early Wednesday, when it came to crunch time, McCutchins delivered again. After Paideia cut the Trion lead to six points with 1:21 remaining in the third quarter, she led a 11-2 run over the next five minutes. McCutchins drove for two to end the third quarter, then had a pair of assists and ended the run with a 3-pointer to all but seal the win.

It was the defense, though, that's been the key all season and was again Wednesday as McCutchins, Kinzleigh Turner, Aubree Weaver and Aubree Hines constantly disrupted the Paideia offense.

"We run a diamond press where we trap some and let I'ziah freelance," said Brown, whose team has allowed an average of just 39 points per game while getting 14 steals per contest. "We hang our hat on man defense for the most part when we roll out of the press. The girls like to press, but the key is we scramble back so well that we get steals on the back end a lot.

"It's just effort. We never have to coach effort with this group."

Though Wednesday brought heartbreak for the boys, the season won't go down as a disappointment for coach John Cornett. What transpired a week ago took care of that.

Trion lost three times to Darlington last season by more than 30 points each game in the newly formed Region 7-A in Division I, so Cornett knew any chance of ending a region championship drought of 17 years depended on finding a way to defeat the Tigers.

"Darlington is a great program," Cornett said. "We set a goal at the beginning of the year, and we knew it would be Darlington. First, though, we just had to prove we could hang with them."

The Bulldogs did that in two regular-season losses by 11 and eight points, and in the region championship game at Armuchee, they rallied late to pull off the win.

"They pulled away two times in the fourth quarter, but we just kept fighting back," Cornett said. "That clearly is one of the top three wins I've ever been a part of."

Cornett's team, led by sons Josh and Austin Cornett, Greyson Patty, Jase Mason and Caden Hinton, scored the game's first points Wednesday against Prince Avenue Christian but then trailed until late in the third quarter.

Five straight Trion points, the last three on a Hinton 3-pointer, tied the game at 36 with 2:06 left in the third. The visitors, however, scored the game's next 14 points to ultimately end the Bulldogs' special season.

"We were laughing about this that they are probably the best four seed in the playoffs right now," Cornett said earlier this week. "The four seed from that region won the state championship last season. We'll give it our best try and, either way, we'll hold our heads high."

Contact Lindsey Young at lyoung@timesfreepress.com.

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