Best games brought out best in fans-Brian Paglia Column

The game helped me believe in Southern Crescent fans again.

Bleachers were not for sitting that night. They were a noisemaker.

Clothes were not merely a formality that night. They sent a message.

Chants were not for spectacle that night. They were a battle cry.

When Dutchtown's boys basketball team went into Union Grove on Jan. 28, it altered my perception of Southern Crescent fans, for this was not merely a building filled with the families of players and coaches.

Half of the Wolverines football team's most recognizable players were down in front, bouncing on the first row of bleachers. Grown men without a son on the court sat in packs talking about the rest of the Southern Crescent's basketball talent. They came because it was the best game in town that night.

It might have been the best game of the whole season in my estimate, but there were others.

What follows is my in-exact ranking of the best games I saw this season.

5. Drew boys 67, Stockbridge 63, OT, Feb. 11

So many variables contributed to this thriller. It was Senior Night for the Tigers; it was the regular-season finale with implications on the region standings; and Stockbridge already had a win against Drew at the Titans' place.

So Drew stared down a 10-point fourth quarter deficit and came back to force overtime. They clinched the game in an almost unfathomable way -- by preventing Stockbridge from in-bounding the ball for a chance to take the lead.

And then, when it was discovered Drew played an ineligible player, it was all wiped away by a forfeit.

4. Stockbridge girls 54, Eagle's Landing 53, Jan. 4

After Eagle's Landing had erased a 20-point deficit in the fourth quarter, after Golden Eagles guard Alexis Smith tied the game with 13.7 seconds left, Eagle's Landing could only watch as the game was decided with Stockbridge's Ade Popoola at the free throw line with 0.3 seconds on the clock.

Popoola only needed to make one for the win, and she got that out of the way by making the first one.

3. North Clayton boys 65, Morrow 64, Dec. 7

North Clayton star Marcus Hunt had to take the potential game-winning shot for the Eagles. That much was certain.

What North Clayton didn't know was that Hunt didn't have to make the shot for the Eagles to win.

They just needed a well-placed miss by Hunt, a well-executed block out by Michael Johnson and a clutch rebound and putback by Dennis Johnson with 7.5 seconds left.

2. Stockbridge boys 67, Sandy Creek 60, OT, Feb. 8

Stockbridge needed every bit of Dante Campbell's 30 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and three blocks to pull this one out. Tigers coach Duane Kelley did not play four players for disciplinary reasons, and another, DeShawn Badger, sat out to rest an injury.

But Stockbridge also needed Campbell to shut down Sandy Creek guard Tyler Fields, whose 3-pointer at the buzzer, his fifth of the game, forced overtime. Campbell did that, and Stockbridge survived with one of the gutsiest wins of the season.

1. Dutchtown boys 65, Union Grove 64, Jan. 28

The lead for both teams was never more than six points and the cacophony of the raucous crowd never ceased.

Union Grove's student section was packed and at its best for the region rivalry. Dutchtown's visiting crowd held its own too.

Down by two, Kellan Holiday hit a 3-pointer with just seconds left on the clock to give the Bulldogs the win and leave a capacity home crowd silent.

Brian Paglia covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at bpaglia@news-daily.com.