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ATLANTA – When majority of a team’s shot attempts are layups, many believe players shouldn’t miss them because IT’S A LAYUP. Aquinas converted about all of its shots in the paint in the third quarter, and the ultimate prize is a championship.
After missing majority of their shots in the second quarter, the Fightin’ Irish were on fire after the break then held on for a 65-60 victory on March 9 over St. Francis for their first state title in school history.
“When I got there last year, I set goals and I wanted to get a championship by year three,” Aquinas coach Darren Douglas said. “We got one this year and now we can try to continue to build on that and try to build a tradition. All it takes is one.”
Even though Aquinas nearly shot 100 percent from the field in the third quarter, this 2018 GHSA private Class A contest at Georgia Tech (McCamish Pavilion) was a 3-pointer from possibly going into overtime.
With less than a minute left, Dwon Odom (22 points, six assists) made his fourth steal of the game and drilled his second 3-pointer of the afternoon, slicing the Knights’ deficit to 61-60. On the other end, Daniel Parrish (14 points) sank two free throws to rebuild the margin to three with 43 seconds remaining.
First, Chase Ellis (10 points) missed from deep, then following an offensive rebound, Cj Riley (18 points) misfired on a clean look from the top of the key. St. Francis put Parrish back on the line but this time his shot was off. Odom pushed the ball up the floor and shot a 3 from the wing, which was on target, but coach Drew Catlett called a timeout to negate the shot.
After the break in action, Riley had a relatively clean look from the corner this time but he failed to connect again (Riley finished just 2-of-11 from 3-point range) and Trent Bowdre (10 points) put the game out of reach on the other end of the floor.
Tre Gomillion led the Irish with 16 points and 14 rebounds and Dajuan Hill added 15 points.
“Those guys are some great players and made some great plays but we just kept fighting and wanted it more than them,” said Gomillion, who is a senior.
Aquinas came out of the locker room for the third quarter down 33-26. But in the first six minutes of the frame, the run the Irish needed came to fruition. They made seven consecutive layups and five shots from the stripe during a game-change 19-4 surge which gave them the lead the rest of the way.
“During the season in the first half, we always start out slow but in the second half we were going to make the last 16 minutes our best 16 minutes to get that state championship,” Douglas said.
Gomillion had eight of his points in the quarter and Parrish capped a 25-9 scoring advantage in the period with a steal and layup at the buzzer for a 51-42 score. Aquinas shot 83 percent (10-of-12) in the quarter compared to St. Francis’ 3-of-11 (27 percent) shooting performance.
In the second quarter, the Irish were a totally different team, which was unable to produce any type of offense while shooting nine percent from the field. But they appeared to collectively embrace the philosophy of “get to the foul line and build some rhythm there.” Aquinas made 9-of-10 free throws and held the Knights to 36 percent shooting.
“We were 1-for-11 in the second quarter but they just kept playing and kept doing what they needed to do and we got out of here with the title,” Douglas said.
Although, St. Francis couldn’t miss from the outside in the opening eight minutes. The Knights made seven jumpshots, including four 3-pointers en route to a 22-15 lead.
“While they were shooting, I kept saying they will not keep making all of these shots like this,” Douglas said. “That is emotion. They were contested and tough shots but they were making them. I said if we can stick with it they will start missing and get frustrated. That is a good team but they are young too.”