The scoreboad read: Suwannee 52, Lafayette 52.
The time on the
scoreboard read: 00:00.
At the free throw line was Jonathan Sellers, junior guard for the Hornets with no time left in the game. A miss meant overtime. A made free throw meant victory.
In the balance was a gallant comeback effort by Suwannee.
After the Bulldogs had tied the game at 52-52 on a lay up by Marcus Walker with six seconds left to play, Sellers speed got him down court quick as he went to the basket only to be fouled just before the last second ticked off. After the three officials huddled, they ruled that Sellers had been fouled before time ran out. Sellers was awarded two shots from the charity stripe knowing they were big ones.
Alone at the free throw stripe, Sellers only needed to make one of the two to secure a win for his team in their final home game of the season. He lofted the first attempt and the ball bounced wide off the left part of the rim. In disgust, Sellers walked away from the charity stripe. His second attempt though was on target as it nestled in the basket securing a 53-52 victory for the homestanding Hornets.
It was an elated Lafayette coach who celebrated with his team. "Tonight we started knocking down our free throws," said Coach Derek Garland. "It was our big guys who stepped up for us. The ones we wanted at the line. Sellers did a great job for us and he made a big, big free throw for us tonight."
Lafayette overcame a sluggish start only to right themselves in picking up their seventh win of the season against 10 losses. The Hornets had built a 10 point advantage early in the third period until Jay Chambers got the hot hand for Suwannee in bringing his team back with two three point baskets against the Hornets 2-3 zone -- something that had been good to the Hornets in previous games. "We had to come out of our zone because 33 (Chambers) got hot. I knew they were quick and we were kind of tired," Garland said. "We have had success lately with the zone that is the reason we played it tonight. Once 33 started hitting we had to man up (go to a man-to-man defense) and put a hand in 33s face."
Chambers second trey narrowed the margin to three points, 32-19. The Hornets could only manage a five point lead the rest of the third period taking a 44-39 lead into the fourth quarter. Sharrod Lee came off the Suwannee bench and controlled the fourth quarter for the Bulldogs with three consecutive rebound put backs. Marcus Walker made it a one point game, 48-47 on a strong move inside.
With 1:04 left to play, Suwannee reclaimed the lead at 49-48. Walker's free throw with 25 seconds to play gave the Bulldogs a two-point 50-48 lead. Walker missed the second attempt with Jonathan Edwards getting the rebound for Lafayette. Lee was whistled for an over the back call where Edwards sank two free throws to tie the game at 50-50. On an exchange of baskets the two teams remained tied at 52-52 before Sellers hit the big free throw for the win.
The problem of finishing plays underneath the basket almost came back to haunt the Hornets against a good Suwannee team. "We had started to getting better in the last few games," said Coach Garland. "Joey (Watson) missed an easy one. Joseph (Edwards) on some put backs missed some easy ones. But I have to credit the team, they kept fighting back and kept crashing the boards."
Coach Garland said he felt his team failed to rebound well against the Bulldogs. "We did not rebound well tonight out of zone," said Garland. "We gave them too many second chances."
It was the second game in as many nights for the Hornets, third in the week and six in the past two weeks. The Hornet coach said his team may have been feeling the crunch of it all. "We looked like a tired team. Having played McClay the night before. But this team played hard and they did enough to win."
Coach Garland cited the physical play of the game as taking the Hornets out of their game. "We just have to learn to adjust when it goes that way," he said. "We need to do a better job of adjusting to it early."
Edwards led the Hornets scoring with his 14 points. Sellers finished with 13 points but his overall play on the floor will not show up in the final stats. Eric McIntyre added eight points with Watson finishing with six points. Watson had two big rebounds for the Hornets. Jamal Reid scored five points with Shylar Morgan, Josh Scott and James Dees scoring two apiece. Darren Powe had one point.
Lee led Suwannee with his 12 points followed by Walker who finished with 11. Chambers had three three-point baskets for his nine points. Scott Butler and Frank Snead netted eight points each.
The loss dropped the Bulldogs to 4-14 on the season. Lafayette improved to 7-10.
The scoreboad read: Suwannee 52, Lafayette 52.