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Claxton splits with region rival Bryan County

    CLAXTON — As a new year gets underway, it doesn’t look as though Claxton wants anything to change from the recent past.
    In their first sub-region game of the season, the Tigers made short work of Bryan County, earning a 87-41 victory Friday night at the Tiger’s Den.
    Kelsey Wilkerson led the way for Claxton with 16 points and five other Tigers scored at least eight points in the rout.
    Bryan County’s Albert Chavis led all scorers with 18, but his teammates couldn’t provide much help as the Redskins were overwhelmed.
    Claxton looked to have picked things up in region play right where it left off last season, when the Tigers notched their first region title since the 2000-01 campaign.
    While last year’s team won with a tenacious defense and timely shooting, the new edition of the Tigers (11-2, 1-0 Region 3-A) let loose with the offensive fireworks early, hitting six of their first eight field goal attempts and jumping out to an early 18-2 lead in routing the Redskins (0-13, 0-1).
    “We played fast and loose and had a lot of success,” said Claxton coach Eric Bluestein. “We didn’t play much over the holidays, so I think that we came out with fresh legs. It was good to see that we didn’t have too much rust to shake off.”
    With the offense clicking, the Tiger defense followed suit.
    Claxton forced Bryan County into nine first quarter turnovers and converted easy layups in transition to build a 30-6 advantage after the first eight minutes of play and put it firmly in control.
    The onslaught continued in the second quarter as the Tigers continued to work the ball inside. Claxton was able to get almost any shot that it wanted as it demoralized Bryan County and stretched the lead to 53-19 at halftime.
    Claxton emptied its bench in the second half, but it made little difference.
    Even playing against the Bryan County starters — the Redskins only dressed eight players — the Tiger reserves continued to extend the advantage and put the mercy clock in motion in the fourth quarter.
    Bryan County has had its struggles this season and didn’t figure to be much of a match for the explosive Tigers, but in sub-region play every win — no matter the opponent — is vital in the race for a birth in the region tournament and a shot at the state playoffs.
    “It’s good to get a region win under our belts,” said Bluestein. “We know that it’s going to be a long, tough road. You have to get wins wherever you can.”
    The Tigers get right back to business tonight as they hit the road to take on Portal in a cross-region battle. Tip off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Lady Redskins 55, Lady Tigers 31
    The rough start to the season continued for the Claxton Girls as Bryan County easily ran away with a 55-31 win Friday night.
    Olivia Melvin led the Bryan attack with 19 points — 15 of them coming on 3-pointers — and Tiffany Howard added 14 more to the winning effort.
    Devonna Brewton and Mariah Morgan each scored six for Claxton.
    The Lady Redskins jumped out to a 19-5 lead after the first quarter of play notched a relentless barrage of high-percentage shots after forcing Claxton turnovers and utilizing their efficient transition game.
    Claxton had difficulty finding any open shots, and the relentless pressure took its toll as the Redskins built a 30-12 lead at halftime.
    Bryan County stayed hot to open the second half. More fast-paced action enabled the Redskins to put the game away early with a 9-0 run to open the third quarter and Bryan easily ran down the remaining minutes to put a cap on the victory.

    Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.