FORT VALLEY, Ga. -- Nothing Dodge County did Saturday afternoon surprised Josey girls basketball coach Lynn Brantley.
She expected the Squaws to pound the ball inside, and she figured her second-seeded Lady Eagles would need to battle No. 3 Dodge County on the rebounding glass to have a chance to move to the second round of the Georgia Class AAA playoffs.
So, Brantley was fully versed on what the Squaws would try to accomplish. Instead, Brantly was blind-sided by her own squad -- she never expected the Lady Eagles to play like this.
Hurt by an awful shooting performance and post player Shika Cunningham's foul trouble, Dodge County ended Josey's season with a 50-39 win at Peach County High School.
"We didn't bring our 'A' game with us at all," Brantley said. "We hesitated to shoot, and I don't know why."
Minus the performance of senior guard Tiana Brice, she was right.
Josey (18-11) hit just 23 percent of its shots (14-of-60), and the Squaws -- which out-rebounded the Lady Eagles 38-27 -- were there to get the board most of the time.
Brice, though, almost pulled Josey through.
Scoring a game-high 24 points -- that's 62 percent of the Lady Eagles' offense -- and pulling down a team-high seven rebounds, Brice was instrumental in keeping her team in the contest.
But after her layup with 3:02 to play cut the Dodge County (19-7) lead to 40-34, the Squaws crushed the Lady Eagles and finished the game on a 10-3 run.
"We didn't come to play," Brice said. "Our minds weren't in the game."
To make matters worse, Cunningham -- who averaged about 15 rebounds per game -- sat out much of the game in foul trouble. It allowed a tall Dodge County squad to take advantage of a much-smaller Josey team.
"They did not have the inside game, and we know that going in," Squaws coach Dick Kelly said. "They were shooting those long shots -- sometimes five feet behind the three-point line -- and they could get only one offensive rebound in the second half."
But what truly frustrated the Lady Eagles -- and their vocal fan base -- were the referees.
Although Brantley was hesitant to complain about the officiating after the game -- "Just say we were out-shot on the free throw line," she said with a grin -- the numbers speak for themselves.
Of the 36 fouls whistled in the game, Josey was called for 23, and Dodge County visited the foul line three times as much as the Lady Eagles (36-11).
But the Lady Eagles could hardly blame the referees for the loss. After all, they went 8:27 in the first half without scoring a point and 13:39 scoring just four.
Without Brice, the loss truly would have been embarrassing.
"Tiana has hustled for us all year," Brantley said. "The rest of the kids just went AWOL on us."
Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216. or firstname.lastname@example.org