The crowd was hostile. The opponent was Goliath-esque. The stage was unprecedented.
Could a high school basketball game get any better?
The rumors were swirling. The crowd was building. The odds quietly improved.
How could the outcome actually match the pregame murmur?
With a buzzer-beating floater, that's how. With tears coming from Eagle's Landing boys basketball players. With No. 1-ranked South Atlanta players and fans storming the Locust Grove gym court.
The Region 4-AAA tournament final had everything that night. It immediately became the best basketball game I saw all season.
And my mind immediately took inventory of all the basketball I witnessed during the regular season, boys and girls. Could anything top Eagle's Landing-South Atlanta?
In short, no. But there were contenders, enough to compile a list of the five best basketball games I saw in person this season. What were your favorites?
5. Feb. 15, 2010 -- Woodland girls 48, Maynard Jackson 46.
Lady Jaguars were the best team in Region 4-AAA during the regular season and the most disdained. Case in point: when the Lady Wolfpack pulled off the upset victory, Lady Jaguars forward Marqueisha Smith exited the gym by throwing her Powerade onto the court and shouting a litany of expletives.
4. Jan. 15, 2010 -- Union Grove boys 74, Luella 73.
As Wolverines guard Ira Hughley hit a game-winning free throw with 0.8 seconds left, Union Grove athletic director Ralph Neeley had to hold back a raucous student section from storming the court March Madness style. Nothing epitomized county rivalry like Union Grove-Luella this season.
3. Jan. 26, 2010 -- Lovejoy girls 44, Riverdale 43 (overtime).
All Riverdale had to do was secure an inbounds and waste away the clock. Instead, Lady Wildcats sophomore Navilla Paul stole the inbounds from Tulsa-signee Tiayra Green and hit a layup at the buzzer.
2. Feb. 9, 2010 -- Dutchtown girls 57, Forest Park 54.
The rematch. The young girls of Forest Park embarrassed the veteran bunch of Dutchtown in their first meeting, and the Lady Bulldogs circled this game immediately after. Brittney Strickland drove coast-to-coast for a game-deciding layup. Two days later, Forest Park lost again to give Dutchtown first place in Region 4-AAAA.
1. Feb. 22, 2010 -- South Atlanta boys 48, Eagle's Landing 46.
Defending Class AAA champions meet surprise Golden Eagles in their first region tournament final appearance in 20 years. Everyone in the building knew why Hornets star forward Nickalus Jacobs didn't play. Everyone in the building still thought Eagle's Landing didn't had a chance. Nobody thought South Atlanta would need a second-chance floater as time expired to win.
Brian Paglia is a sportswriter for the Clayton News Daily/Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at 770-478-5753 ext. 253 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org