With his team leading by only five points with 1:35 left on the clock, Malik Harden wanted the ball in his hands.
The senior got it, drew three fouls and nailed six free throws in the final 95 seconds of play to seal a 68-58 win for Westside over West Laurens on Friday.
I just had to step up and make big plays for my team, said Harden, who finished with 22 points. I felt like I could help my team win, felt like I could put it away.
Before the closing stretch, the Raiders (11-7, 3-7 GHSA Region 2-AAAA) got within three earlier in the quarter. After leading by five at halftime, the Seminoles fought to hold on to the lead.
My team battled, Westside head coach Josh Grube said. We had a terrible second quarter. We talked about it at halftime, (then) we came out and beat a very, very good ballclub in West Laurens.
Westside improved to 12-9 overall and 6-4 in region play. Grube thought that his team might be sluggish after their region victory over Veterans on Tuesday night.
We have not played well in back-to-back games all year, and I was kinda concerned about that coming into the game, Grube said. (West Laurens) has size, theyve got big guards, and I knew it was gonna be a tough matchup with us, with our guards, because theyre bigger than us.
The size differential and schedule ultimately didnt matter once Harden took over.
Thats what we expect out of him, Grube said. We want the ball in his hands late in the games, and we go when he goes. When were playing well, thats normally when hes playing well, too.
Justin Smith led the Raiders with 15, while Garrel Quainton had 11. Damion Ottman added 11 for the Seminoles.
The West Laurens girls withstood a second-half comeback by the Seminoles to win 51-42.
The Raiders (10-8, 6-4) lead 28-15 after two quarters, but a 16-9 run by Westside (6-12 3-6) cut the Raiders lead to six after three.
Daisha Terry finished with 15 for the Seminoles, but it wasnt enough to overcome West Laurens DiAsia Herring with 13 and Dinah Jackson with 12.