Photo by Heather Middleton
By Brian Paglia
The focus for Drew leading up to Friday's game at Stockbridge was on fine-tuning its defense. That came in handy with 5.3 seconds left in overtime in a hostile venue.
The Titans led by three points with Stockbridge set to inbound the ball. Drew coach Jarrod Davis knew the Tigers intended to get the ball to their senior star Dante Campbell, so the Titans double-teamed Campbell and forced another Stockbridge player to get open.
No one did. Stockbridge was called for a 5-second violation, Drew took possession and needed just one free throw to seal a 67-63 victory at Stockbridge in a Region 4-AAA game.
Thanks to Eagle's Landing's 75-33 victory over Spalding, Drew (13-7, 11-5 Region 4-AAA) secured the No. 3 seed and will play Sandy Creek when it hosts next week's region tournament. Stockbridge (12-10, 10-6) finished as the No. 4 seed and will play Spalding.
And that was the focus after Friday's compelling game for Davis and the Titans. Despite the emotional come-from-behind win, Davis didn't want to dwell on the victory. Instead, he looked toward the region tournament, where a loss means the end of the season.
"This win could do one of two things," Davis said. "It could propel us to three wins, or we could lose our next game. We can't stay up too long from this win, because if we lose in the region tournament, than it doesn't do us any good."
Drew appeared headed to a loss Friday. When Campbell got a steal at the top of the key and made a lay-up on the other end, Stockbridge led 48-38 early in the fourth quarter. The Tigers' packed crowd for Senior Night was alive and raucous.
Drew's Eloka Olisa promptly made a 3, but the Stockbridge stands erupted seconds later when Tigers senior DeShawn Badger hit a deep 3 to give Stockbridge a 51-41 lead.
Davis didn't know what to expect out of his team at that point, he said.
"We showed some immaturity tonight in not closing out the game," Davis said.
Here a week-long of practice filled with an emphasis on defense was put to use. Drew went on a 10-1 run to cut Stockbridge's lead to 52-51. Barry Mayes later made a put-back lay-up to give Drew a 55-54 lead.
And when Stockbridge scored the first points in overtime, Drew responded. The Tigers didn't score again.
"We came out lazy for some reason," Mayes said, "but we pumped it up. We started running plays correctly."
Mayes led Drew with 22 points and 11 rebounds, and Olisa finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Campbell finished with 26 points, eight rebounds and four steals for Stockbridge in the loss. Badger scored 19 points.