After winning 17 straight games by an average of 38 points, the Windsor Knights basically needed a miracle Saturday when they met up with Flint River, the only team to defeat Windsor this year.
In a game that determined which team would make it to the GISA Class 2A semifinals, the Knights trailed by four with only 12 seconds to play when Jai’Kez Mann hoisted up a desperation 3-point attempt.
“I was just looking to get fouled because they had me covered,” Mann said.
Mann got the call and made 2-of-3 free throws to cut the Flint River lead to two with five seconds left. Mann wasn’t done, however, as he came up with a steal and scored at the buzzer to send the game to overtime.
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Windsor survived to advance but not before Flint River missed two free throws with one second left in overtime that would have given it the win.
“The only thing that got us through that game was God,” Windsor head coach Michael Johnson said. “It was a battle between two great teams, and I credit our kids for never giving up. We feel like we are ready for anything on the court right now, and if we were not battle-tested before that game, well I would say that we definitely are now.”
Windsor (27-1) plays Solid Rock at 2:30 on Friday at Mercer’s Hawkins Arena, and Johnson is expecting a tough game.
“We saw Solid Rock play on Saturday, and they are humongous,” Johnson said. “I mean, they seriously look like a college team with their size. Their smallest starter is about 6-foot-1, and their tallest is 6-foot-10, and they will present some problems inside for us. But we are a confident team right now, and we feel like we are ready for a challenge.”
Windsor is led by three seniors — Marquise Jackson, Landry Rustin and Mann. Jackson and Rustin are heading to their third straight Final Four while Mann transferred from Rutland and will be playing in his first.
“One of the reasons I came here was to win a state championship,” said Mann, who is averaging 15 points per game. “I think we proved that we will not give up no matter what the situation is because of the Flint River game, and I think it made us a better basketball team. I feel pretty sure we will be ready for Friday.”
Jackson won a state championship his sophomore year before losing in the semifinals a year ago. He committed the foul that put Flint River on the free-throw line at the end of the game.
“I thought it was over right then, and yes I did foul him, but when he missed, and we advanced, I felt like we had another lease on our season,” Jackson said. “We all expected to be here at the beginning of the season, and if you walk into the locker room, every player would tell you that if we don’t win state, this is a disappointing season for us.
“I can still feel the loss last year, and I don’t want that feeling again.”
GISA Final Four
John Milledge vs. Heritage, 5:30 p.m.
Holy Spirit Prep vs. Westminster, 7 p.m.
Championship game, 7 p.m.
Windsor vs. Solid Rock, 2:30 p.m.
Furtah Prep vs. FPCA, 4 p.m.
Championship game, 3:40 p.m.
Gatewood vs. Trinity Christian-Sharpsburg, 5:30 p.m.
Heritage vs. Pinewood Christian, 7 p.m.
Championship game, 5:20 p.m.
Brentwood vs. Crisp, 2:30 p.m.
Westwood vs. Robert Toombs, 4 p.m.
Championship game, 2 p.m.