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ATLANTA – In the closing seconds of a tight contest, both teams hope to get the ball to a player who gives them the best chance to win. St. Pius (GA) accomplished that task and so did Mt. Bethel Christian (GA).
But the execution afterwards was the deciding factor in a 71-70 overtime win at home for the Golden Lions on December 5, extending their perfect record to 6-0.
Senior Everett Lane led St. Pius with 25 points, including clutch shots late in regulation and overtime.
With his team trailing by three with 35 seconds left in OT, Lane scored on a putback for a 70-69 score. On the other end, the Golden Lions opted not to foul right away and got the turnover they desired when Zach Ranson stole a pass into the lane by JaVontae Kruger.
After a timeout, Lane received a backdoor pass in the paint from Kennedy Willis (eight points) and was fouled with 7.6 seconds remaining. Already perfect on his first four free-throw attempts, Lane stepped to the stripe and nailed both shots for a one-point lead.
Even though point guard Coleman Boyd (eight points, seven assists) had fouled out on the previous play, the Eagles (7-3) still had plenty of time to get a good look at the basket with leading scorers Jaquez Gilbert (27 points) and Stanley Eze (24 points, 14 rebounds) on the floor.
“A lot of respect for their team,” St. Pius coach Aaron Parr said. “They are very good. No. 15 [Gilbert] and 35 [Eze] just had unbelievable games tonight. We just had no answers defensively. We were just too small and they exploited us but our kids kept battling.”
Gilbert, who hit five 3-pointers and scored 19 points in the first half, dribbled the ball to the 3-point line but Lane left his man to trap and Gilbert lost the ball as time expired.
“That was one of the best high school games I’ve been a part of in a while,” Parr said. “Just the high level of the game. The plays kids were making on both sides of the ball. The defensive intensity. The basketball IQ on offense. It was a really awesome game–a high school fans’ dream.”
During the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, Lane drained a jumper from the elbow to tie the score at 64 with 12 seconds remaining. Mt. Bethel had another chance to escape victorious but Kruger was tied up with .09 left, resulting in a change of possession.
“Our guys sense of urgency went up a little bit and they really focused and locked in,” Parr said. “Our guys really hustled hard on those two plays–that was just an all five guys, team-defensive effort.”
But St. Pius gave the ball right back on a bad inbounds pass with the same amount of time on the clock. However, Eze’s double-clutch shot from the corner missed the mark and four extra minutes were put on the clock.
Troy Stephens was the Lions’ only other player to reach double figures with 11 points.
Similar to Gilbert’s performance in the first half, Eze owned the third quarter, notching 14 of his total in the frame. Sophomore Jordan Meka had the paint on lock, sending away eight of the Lions’ shots.
“He’s the best shot blocker I’ve seen in high school,” Parr said. “His timing is incredible. You think you got a wide open layup and he just comes and gets them.”