The Eagles pulled off what many will say was nothing short of a miracle Friday at Warner Robins.
In a 67-66 final, it transpired as follows.
Northside was down 66-61 with three seconds left on the fourth-quarter clock. It had trailed 18-13 after one and 20-14 within two minutes of the second – the Demons’ biggest lead of the night. They were led all night by Darius Shine, who netted 26 points, the highest total of any player. Jalen Rountree was also Mr. Consistency with 18 scattered abroad.
Northside did manage, however, to pull to within two, 20-18, with 5:37 left in the period and then stayed close – typically only a trey away the rest of the way. With four seconds showing Gary Lowe, who finished with 16 points, ran the floor and laid it in. He was fouled in the process and made the free throw. That put it at 26-all, which is where it stood at the break.
Perry Weaver hit two of his six points with the clock at 7:40 in the third. He had two more points in that period and had sunk a bucket in the first. The first of those gave Northside its first lead of the night, 28-26. Led by Jarius Smith’s seven during the quarter – he finished with 17 to lead the club – the Eagles got it – the lead - as high as nine, 39-30, midway through the period. They led 47-41 heading into the fourth.
The two finally found their stride in the fourth – running the floor and doing so with success.
The Demons chipped away at the lead and finally pulled to within one, 51-50 with 3:55 remaining.
Northside pushed it back out to four, 58-54, with 2:34 remaining before Shine made two free throws. The ball was subsequently stolen on the way back down the floor and fed back to him for a layup tying the score.
It was tied at 59 before Gabe Butler (eight points) hit one-of-two that gave Warner Robins the lead. Even better for the home team was the fact he grabbed the rebound on the miss and put that in. Charles Colbert (eight points) followed that up with two trips to the line – the Eagles made one in between but came away empty. He made two-of-four tries. By then there was only 26 seconds left in the game. Shine was intentionally fouled with 14 left and made both. That made it the aforementioned 66-61.
The ball was inbounded, brought up the court and fed to Justin Burnham in the corner. He ran the baseline to the hoop and “this” is where it gets really interesting.
He was fouled … hard. Hard enough in fact to draw a technical. He went to the line for four shots. The first missed. The second didn’t. Neither did the third or fourth. By the time he was finished, Northside was only trailing by two, 66-64, and of course they still had the ball.
Smith inbounded it at midcourt to Devon Tanner. Tanner received it about three feet outside and near the top of the arc. For a brief second he looked to his right as if to pass. His face said that was either the play or his intent. Either way his teammate was covered. He threw up a prayer. It was answered.
A good portion of the sellout crowd – reportedly sold out by 5:30 p.m. even though the first game, between the girls, didn’t start until 7 p.m. – flooded the floor in ecstasy.
Trent Smith also scored nine for the Eagles. And oh by the way, those were the only points scored by Tanner on the night. Dess Culpepper had five, Mike Smith two and Denard Williams one.
Derrick Gibson had four for the Demons and Jabari Stegall two.
Earlier, Northside’s girls beat Warner Robins 41-32.
How best to sum up that game? Well, let’s just pick a spot. How about with action at the midway point of the first quarter. Northside miss. Warner Robins miss. Northside miss. Warner Robins miss. Northside turnover. Warner Robins turnover. Northside turnover. Warner Robins turnover. Northside miss three-point attempt. Warner Robins miss three-point attempt. Northside turnover. Danielle Gazaway layup.
That came with 15 seconds left on the clock and left the Demonettes trailing 6-5 after one. More importantly, that typified how the game went for both clubs. There were plenty of shots missed with a defender – or two – in their face. There were plenty of shots missed with a clear look at the basket. It was just one of those nights.
Warner Robins – it was led by Diamond Hudson’s 10 and Gazaway’s eight - finally got it tied at 14 with 1:52 left in the second. It also led at the break 17-16.
Northside again tied it in the third, 20-all with 5:30 showing. It was led by Jasmine Wilson’s 14 and Chan Fann’s 11. All of Wilson’s came in the third and fourth quarters and all but two of them came at the free throw line.
She put the Lady Eagles ahead 22-20 with the first of those. Two more following – following a bunch of misses and turnovers (she made the first two at 3:28, the second two came at 1:38) – put Northside up 24-20.
Cierra Gordon who had four points on the night made it 25-20. The third ended with it 26-22.
Aaliyah Jones with her only basket on the night made it 26-24 to start the fourth but three straight trips to the line and making five out of six attempts pushed it to 30-24.
Warner Robins got it to 33-30 before Fann made a layup. The Lady Eagles then finished out with five trips to the line, making six out of 10.
Wykeria Fann also had five for them. Chelsie Waters and Kiara Thompson each had three and Shambria Smith one.
Asha Stegall had four for the Demonettes. Ashley Lee had three and Kenyona Armstrong was held to three as well. Tierra Axom made two to finish out the scoring.