With his team heading to overtime Saturday against Warner Robins, Westside head coach Josh Grube’s strategy was to win the game at the free-throw line. That’s pretty much how it worked out for the Seminoles.
With 22 seconds remaining, Westside held a one-point lead. But Ronnie Mays stepped up, draining a pair of free throws before a single shot from the line by Malik Harden put the game away in a 69-65 victory for the Seminoles (7-2). Mays had 18 points to lead Westside.
“He has a knack for making clutch free throws for us,” Grube said of Mays. “He wants the ball in his hands at the end of the game, and we want the ball in his hands. He made the free throws near the end, and you’ve got to be able to do that and put the game out of reach.”
Westside’s goal of winning the game with free throws began at the start of overtime with its offensive strategy. Instead of driving directly toward the basket, the Seminoles took their time on offense on consecutive possessions, holding the ball as long as possible. Although no points were produced, the plan ran more than two minutes off the clock, which turned out to be advantageous given that Warner Robins drained 10 3-pointers during the course of the game. Westside turned the ball over on one possession with Mays missing a free throw in a 1-in-1 situation with 48 seconds to play and the Seminoles led 67-66.
“Since there is no shot clock in high school basketball, we’re going to try and take advantage of them fouling us and forcing to make free throws,” Grube said. “I’ve got all the confidence in the world in my guys to make free throws. We actually turned the ball over and it almost backfired on us.”
During that same stretch, Warner Robins was unable to sieze an advantage A Sam Harris three-pointer misfired and shortly thereafter, Josh King’s shot from under the basket bounced off the rim. Then, after Mays’ miss, Marquez Callaway was called for a travel, Westside was given another chance to extend its lead as Mays was intentionally fouled with 22 seconds to go. This time, he cashed in on the chance.
“That was a great game,” Warner Robins head coach Jamaal Garman said. “We just had a few breaks that didn’t go our way.”
Throughout regulation, neither team was able to gain much separation with the biggest lead at five through the first three quarters. The Seminoles appeared to be on the verge of putting the game away early in the fourth on a 6-0 run started by a Mays layup, which put Westside ahead 58-48 with 6:40 to play. The Demons, however, bounced right back. Juvuan Shine, who tormented the Seminoles all game long with 25 points and five 3-pointers, drained a 3-pointer. He came up with a steal on Westside’s next possession, scoring on a layup and drawing a foul. After the converted free throw, Warner Robins trailed 58-54. Shine converted two more shots from behind the 3-point arc in the fourth, the final of which put the Demons ahead 63-60 with 1:36 to play.
“We’ve been in that situation a lot of times this year,” Grube said. “We’ve had nine- and 10- point leads going into the fourth, and we haven’t been able to put teams away. That’s been our motto here lately. We’ve got to learn how to put teams away.”
Westside answered. Following a Tyler Wheeler free throw, Harden moved Westside back to the lead with a 3-pointer of his own. Warner Robins tied it with 27 seconds to play thanks to a Josh King free throw, but he missed the other free throw to keep the game tied.
In the girls game, Warner Robins pulled away in the fourth to come away with a 34-26 win. Westside (3-6) was plagued by an offensive slump in the final quarter, managing just three points. Daisha Terry’s eight points led Westside.
Warner Robins led 27-24 with 3:47 to play before taking charge. A Jada Everett layup extended the Demonettes lead to 29-24, and an Asha Stegall foul shot following a technical foul stretched the advantage to 30-24, the largest lead of the game for Warner Robins. Destini Johnson added another blow with a three-pointer to make the Demonettes lead 33-24. Stegall led Warner Robins (4-4) with 13 points.