WAYNESBORO, Ga.- Reggie Middleton showed last year he could handle the pressures as a freshman in the Region 3-AAA Tournament.
He made solid decisions and didn't cost his team the game. This year was different.
Middleton saw his team trailing by one at the end of the third quarter and did more than his share to turn the game into a 65-52 win over Hephzibah to earn Butler a spot in the Region 3-AAA championship game.
Middleton scored eight of his team's first 11 points in a fourth quarter where his team outscored Hephzibah by a 25-11 count.
"I was tired in the first half," said Middleton, who finished with four 3-pointers and 21 points. "Give out. But I sucked all I had to possibly suck up for that final quarter.
"We had to beat these boys because they were one of the two teams that beat us. Bragging rights and all."
Middleton also added two key steals that led to points and also had four assists in the quarter to play the largest hand in the Bulldogs' 16th consecutive win.
"Our plan was to run the ball the whole game and tire Hephzibah in the fourth quarter," Butler coach Rob Johnson said. "They had no legs. The fourth quarter their jump shots were short. Their fouls shots were short. They'd been playing two straight nights. We wanted to run all night and tire out those legs."
Austin Steed also had 22 points for Butler.
The Bulldogs play Liberty County at 8:30 tonight for the region championship.
RICHMOND ACADEMY 60,
LIBERTY COUNTY 49
Richmond Academy might have won its biggest basketball game since its 1997 state championship game Friday night.
The Lady Musketeers knocked off ninth-ranked Liberty County, the top seed from Region 3-AAA South.
Richmond Academy (17-6) clinched a spot in today's region championship game at 7 p.m. against Hephzibah. The victory also secured a first-round home playoff game next Saturday.
"It's a good feeling to know we will be playing for a region championship," Richmond Academy coach Harry Bufford said. "We played good defense. I told them that's how we earned it"
A two-pronged scoring attack led the way for the Lady Musketeers. Junior guard Shunae Beasley had 15 points. Sophomore center Kaylyn Small also had 15.
"It sure was a good feeling in our locker room after this game," Small said. "We had a good time out there today."
HEPHZIBAH 62, CROSS CREEK 43
Hephzibah's Jaleesa Morris insisted after her team's lackluster performance Thursday night that things weren't as dire as their narrow win against Harlem would seem.
She promptly went about showing just why she thought that in a win against Cross Creek in the region semifinal.
"I saw a lot of Porsha White having her way and scoring for us down low tonight," Hephzibah coach Wendell Lofton said.
White scored 22 points to spark the victory and looked every bit the inspired youth who came up with key minutes and big plays in the Final Four championship drive last season for Hephzibah.
It just didn't start out that way.
White missed six of her first seven shots from the line in the first quarter.
She rebounded with steady production.
She scored six points in the second quarter. Then added nine points over the next eight minutes of play that decided the contest.
"We're still not shooting it well but we're moving the ball around better," Lofton said.
Hephzibah (25-2) advanced to face Richmond Academy in the Region 3-AAA girls championship game.
A victory tonight earns the 16th region championship for Lofton. The win also secured a home Class AAA state playoff game next weekend for Hephzibah.