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MACON (GA) – Some like to say ‘He has ice water in his veins’ or ‘He has the clutch gene’ or ‘He has the ability to make big shots.’
However you prefer to phrase it, the fact is Da’Marcus Johnson possesses this trait and the Tri-Cities Bulldogs are state champions as a result of his last-second 3-pointer in a 46-43 victory over Tucker in the 2019 GHSA Class 6-A title game at the Macon Centreplex on March 9.
Johnson also scored a team-high 13 points and Peyton Daniels added 12 for the Bulldogs, who became the first team in the school’s history to win a state title.
“I’m super happy for our team and East Point, College Park and Hapeville–every kid who has ever played at Tri-Cities,” Tri-Cities coach Omari Forts said. “This year is the 30-year anniversary of Tri-Cities High School. The feeling is surreal.”
After trying to catch up on the scoreboard and playing long stretches of defense since Tucker ran its offensive sets to drain the clock instead of increasing its lead, Tri-Cities finally pulled even at 41-41 with 1:17 left in the game when Johnson got a favorable bounce on his second 3-point attempt of the possession (the Bulldogs had three offensive rebounds).
Then with 30 seconds remaining, Titus Hunter (11 points) wrestled the ball away from Nick Watson and got it to Demetrius Rives, who raced to the other end and banked in a contested floater for a 43-41 edge.
But Watson redeemed himself seconds later by drawing a foul with 6.9 seconds left and draining both foul shots to pull the Tigers back even.
Since Tri-Cities called a timeout before the tying free throw, Johnson received the inbounds pass, dribbled just past the GHSA logo and pulled up over the outstretched hands of Braelon Seals for the game-ending 3 as time expired.
Johnson stared into the crowd like ‘That is what I do’ before his teammates, who were full of excitement, took him to the floor.
“We tell our guys all the time to be special,” Forts said. “I walked Peyton Daniels down to the baseline. I said you are a decoy regardless of what happens with this free throw as long as we rebound and Da’Marcus Johnson is going to win us this state championship and that is exactly what happened.”
The Bulldogs trailed by seven entering the fourth quarter but outscored Tucker 16-6 in the final eight minutes. Both teams shot 34 percent from the field and over 70 percent from the stripe but Tri-Cities made seven 3-pointers and the Tigers missed all six of their attempts.
Two critical plays helped the Bulldogs come out on top as well. First, Montae Hill, who led all scorers with 14 points, was called for his fifth foul when he pushed Hunter in the back going for a rebound with 4:35 remaining. Then before Johnson’s 3-pointer tied the game, Raylan Barrion (eight points) missed a pair of foul shots after making his first four.
“They played hard,” Johnson said. “We just tried to really go at No. 4 [Hill], get him in foul trouble and get him out of the game. We just scrambled and found a way. This is the first team I lost to my freshman year so it’s a good feeling.”