Photo by Darryl Maxie
Stockbridge coach Bryan Lamar (right, in vest) draws a little strategy in the late stages of Friday’s home game against Drew. The Tigers fought back from an 18-point deficit early and climbed out of a 14-point hole, but lost 51-49.
Never judge the fight in a team by the ugliness of its record. Because Drew didn’t fall into that trap, it survived a frenetic Friday finish for a 51-49 victory at Stockbridge.
“People can think this is a three- or four-team race if they want to, but it’s definitely not,” Drew coach Jarrod Davis said, alluding to the Region 4-AAA standings in which Eagle’s Landing, Henry County and his Titans (13-3, 6-2 in the region) have separated from the rest of the pack.
Stockbridge (5-9, 4-4) hardly played like a team losing its sixth straight game, though that was the result. The Tigers fell behind 23-5 in the game’s first 12:34 as Drew played pedal-to-the-metal defense, gambling fearlessly in the passing lanes and tempting the Tigers to throw up ugly, long-distance shots — which they did.
But Stockbridge settled down, overcoming the first hurdle by cutting the deficit to single digits by halftime (nine points at 25-16).
“We had to adjust to their tempo and once we did that, we were fine,” Stockbridge coach Bryan Lamar said. “Once we got over that initial push, I thought we did a good job. I expected to win. I know we can compete with anybody.”
The Titans tried to restore the game to blowout status, bolting to a 14-point lead again late in the third quarter as Derrick Frye — who led Drew with 22 points — completed a three-point play to make it 41-27 with 1:21 left in the period.
The Tigers came up with some defensive stands of their own. That led to opportunities on the offensive end and, as Trevin Joseph began to find the range, their deficit kept melting away. Nathaniel Green, who had missed ugly early, didn’t give in and his persistence led to the short jumper that drew the Tigers even at 47 with 2:37 to play.
“Coach Lamar has got them playing hard as I don’t know what,” Davis said. “He made some good halftime adjustments and once they had the momentum, it turned into a good high school game.”
Frye answered Green’s shot with a layup 12 seconds later that gave Drew the lead for good, though the outcome — and the game’s timing — was still in doubt.
The score remained 49-47 into the final seconds, when the Titans double-teamed Green and got a steal that led to Eloka Olisa’s layup with 10.6 seconds to go.
Joseph, who led all scorers with 23 points, was fouled shooting a 3-pointer and went to the line for three shots. He made two, bringing the Tigers to within 51-49 and forcing them to foul.
How long it took them to get that foul was a source of contention for both teams. The clock ran down to 0.6 seconds before Cory Graves went to the line, but the officials ruled that two full seconds should be placed on the clock and Graves awarded two free throws.
Graves shot one, missed, and players scrambled after the loose ball not realizing it was a two-shot foul. The clock ran down to 1.1 seconds before Graves shot his second free throw, and when he missed that one, too, the Tigers had 0.9 less on the clock to attempt their low-percentage, last-ditch heave.
Not that Davis thought it should’ve gotten that close.
“We’ve got to do a better job finishing,” he said.
The Drew coach credited “some seniors who’ve been in this gym before and learned from it” for the Titans’ poise under pressure.
“They understood what they were doing,” Davis said. “Tonight was a good indication of good senior leadership.”
Stockbridge got some good senior leadership out of forward Leon Prunty, but they didn’t get enough of it because he was in foul trouble all night.
“That hurt,” Lamar said. “Mentally, he was the most prepared to play. We talked to him about attitude and focus and gave him a personal challenge, but unfortunately he got into some foul trouble.”