• 54°

Patriots eliminate No. 1 Lee-Scott

in OT Thriller

By STEVEN G. WATSON

Sports Editor

PHENIX CITY ­ As a kid you go over the drill thousands of times in the back yard, but you never really expect it to happen.

Time running out, the game on the line and you have to take the last shot. Well, two such scenarios panned out for the Pike Liberal Arts Patriots Friday afternoon. One turned into a nightmare, the other a dream come true in the Patriots’ amazing 55-53 overtime win over the Lee-Scott Warriors.

After fighting back from a five-point deficit knotting the score at 48-48, PLAS head coach Jim Ryan and his Patriots made the decision to milk the clock and play for the last shot.

"When we got the ball we looked at each other and said the same thing – spread pike," PLAS guard B.J. Powell said of the plan drawn up during a timeout. "He just told us to spread the ball and take the last shot. That way, if we didn’t get the shot to go in then we would go into overtime."

The plan worked perfectly as the Patriots painfully milked over 1:40 off the clock and got the ball to Clint Wallace who was their go-to guy. Wallace drove the baseline and smartly initiated contact as he shot, drawing the foul with only 4.3 left on the clock.

With Wallace at the line, the Patriots had the chance to take the lead and leave Lee-Scott with only a last-second heave. Under the pressure, however, the usually icy Wallace missed both charity shots sending the game to overtime.

The play mirrored, almost exactly, the regular season game the Patriots had played in the same gym against Glenwood. In that game, Wallace missed two free throws that could have won the game, sending the game into overtime as well. In OT, the senior forward came up with the game-winning shot. This time, however, he got a little help from his friends.

In the extra period PLAS jumped out to a 52-48 lead on some great looks inside that led to some easy baskets.

Then, after a couple of Lee-Scott steals led to easy buckets on the other end and the score 53-51, Powell found himself on a huge breakaway all alone under the basket. The junior point guard missed the easy layin with under a minute and Lee-Scott countered by tying the game up at 53-53.

The scene reset, the Patriots brought the ball down once again ready to take the final shot. This time the ball found it’s way into Powell’s eager hands and with only 10.5 left on the clock he made up for the missed layup nailing a mid-range jumper that hit nothing but net.

"B.J. missed that wide open layup and then he comes back and sinks that shot to give us the lead," PLAS head coach Jim Ryan said. "During the timeout I asked him ‘why can you make that shot and you can’t make the layup?’ I told him I had a full head of hair before that game."

"It’s the biggest," Powell said when asked to describe the shot. "I’m just glad I was able to make that shot. I felt like I let the team down when I missed that layup and I wanted it to be me so I could redeem myself on that shot."

The shot did give Lee-Scott enough time for a couple of shots on the other end, but with their leading scorer Alan Ponder on the bench with five fouls, the Warriors fell short.

"I’m just speechless," Ryan said after the struggle. "We’ve always played Lee-Scott tough and they’ve got a great team and are well coached, but we were due. It was our time and I’m proud of our boys for hanging in there. I was also proud of the fans for making the long drive, but it’s not over. We’ve got one more to go."

That one more is the championship game against the Glenwood Gators. A win by the Patriots over Glenwood would give them the Region Tournament Championship and a bid to the State playoffs.