Chamblee’s girls hadn’t won a state playoff game in basketball in 37 years, and four remarkable three-year starters were down to their last dance Friday night, facing a six-point deficit with seconds left in the third quarter against the second-ranked team in Class AAAA.
Paden Smith banked in a desperate 3-pointer at the buzzer, part of an 8-0 surge that boosted fifth-ranked Chamblee to a 54-47 home victory over Douglas County in the jewel game of the AAAA first round.
‘’This game meant the world to us,’’ said Chamblee coach Paul Ireland. “I coached these girls since they were seventh-graders. I coached them in middle school. … When that last-second shot went in, that’s the turn we needed. I told them we’ve got to take it from here.’’
Lucy Mason, DeKalb County’s leading scorer at 22.3 points per game, opened the fourth with a steal and three-point play for the tie. Paden’s second 3 with 2:40 left made it 48-42 at the end of a 20-6 run.
How these teams met in the first round was another story. Douglas County (26-3), a semifinal last year, was ranked No. 1 and had a 25-game winning streak ended in a 20-point loss to Kell in the region semifinals. That resulted in a No. 3 seed and a road trip into DeKalb.
Chamblee (27-3) – which was ranked No. 1 last season, only to have its season ended in a stunning region upset – had been ranked No. 3 but lost its region final and qualified as the runner-up from Region 6.
Douglas County has the early edge as Christin Mercer, a Florida signee, scored 11 points and had six rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot in the first quarter alone. Douglas County led 17-8.
But Chamblee changed to a man-to-man defense, putting 6-footer Breana McDonald, a Georgia Tech signee, on Mercer, who finished with 13 points, none in the second half.
Meanwhile, Chamblee’s Mason, who has signed with UNC-Greensboro, missed her first six shots. She came back with an eight-point second quarter. She became ill at halftime and battled cramps in the second half but managed 17 points, five assists and five steals.
Mason and McDonald (14 points, 11 rebounds) are four-year starters. Smith and Chelsea Adams are three-year starters. Adams, a 6-3 post, had 14 rebounds and four blocked shots.
“It was the last season of these four starters, and we want to go out with a bang,’’ Mason said. “It’s been tough. This is the stage we thought we should be on.’’
Chamblee’s most recent state-playoff victory had come in 1975, when the team beat Harper in the first round.