SAVANNAH -- Basketballs are round, but sometimes they can take odd bounces and rolls.
Hawkinsville found that out the hard way Saturday, and it wound up costing the Red Devils a shot at a state championship.
Rashon Griggs’ shot underneath the basket with four seconds to play looked as if it was going to drop through the basket. Instead, the ball tilted and rolled backwards.
It was knocked out of bounds in the wild scramble that pursued, and possession went to Hawkinsville with 1.9 seconds to play. But when Ditalion Williams’ desperation 3-pointer hit the front of the rim at Savannah State, Turner County had a trip to the Macon Centreplex.
The Rebels took the lead when Antonio Graddic made a free throw with 13 seconds to play. When the Red Devils couldn’t convert, the Rebels had a 50-49 win and spot in the GHSA Class A public school championship game.
“We got what we wanted,” Hawkinsville head coach Stacy Stephens said. “We wanted the double team on the drive, got it, and there (Griggs) was. We did it just the way we run it in practice. I couldn’t believe it didn’t go in.
“As a coach, there is nothing you can be upset about. At the end, we had what we wanted. I still think we’re the best team in the state.”
Hawkinsville played without Reginald McDonald in the first half. McDonald suffered an ankle injury in the second-round game against Randolph-Clay. He did play in the second half but was limited to two points after averaging 10 per game during the season.
And then the Red Devils took another hit when Williams went down with 3:32 left in the first quarter when he turned his ankle as he came down after making a falling away 15-foot jump shot.
Williams came back late in the second quarter and then helped the Red Devils rally in the third for a 37-31 lead going into the fourth after they trailed 27-21 at the half. Williams, however, was visibly limping, and it affected his jump shots as he could not get the proper lift.
“He’s our guy, our engine,” Stephens said. “He averaged 16 points, eight rebounds, three steals and three assists per game for us. To have him hurt in the first, and (McDonald) out and still survive, I felt good at the half. Dontavius Grace and C. J. Smith gave us some good minutes.”
The Red Devils limited Turner County to only four points in the third quarter; the Rebels got their only field goal with four seconds on the clock.
The Rebels got the first two baskets of the fourth, and it was close the rest of the way.
“We’ve had a good year, but to win the final game, you’ve done something special,” Turner County head coach Buford Kellog said. “This is a game of opportunity, and this is what we got.”