GRAY -- Despite trailing for most of the second half, Westside stuck close with Northside on Wednesday.
The Seminoles rallied to tie the score, pushing Northside to a third overtime before the Eagles came away with a hard-fought 77-73 victory. Westside trailed in the first and second overtimes, forcing a second period of extra play each time.
“One thing I can say about my guys is that they won’t quit; they won’t quit until the horn buzzes,” Westside head coach Josh Grube said.
Westside’s will to play until the finish wasn’t surprising on the opposite sideline. A year ago, Northside surrendered a lead to Westside, with the Seminoles taking the win.
“They know us; we know them,” Northside head coach Ken Price said. “Last year, we had a big lead in the Bear Brawl, and they came back and beat us. I knew they weren’t going to quit.”
The win earns Northside a berth in Thursday’s tournament championship against the winner of Warner Robins and Jones County. An opportunity to prevent an all-Houston County championship was a motivating factor for Westside, according to its head coach.
“Coming in, nobody was giving us a chance,” Grube said. “Everybody was talking about it being Warner Robins-Northside in the final. We kind of used that to motivate us.”
Trailing by as many as 11 points early in the fourth quarter, Westside slowly fought its way back. A layup following a steal by Ronnie Mays trimmed Northside’s lead to 56-52 with 4:25 to play. Mays, who led Westside with 14, later drew the Seminoles to 58-56 prior to a shot by Justin Stephens tying the score at 58-58 with 1:58 to go in the fourth quarter. Neither team was able to take advantage of scoring chances during the final two minutes, sending the game to overtime.
Northside nearly put the game away in the first overtime, grabbing a 63-61 lead on a 3-pointer by Jarius Smith with 29 seconds to go. But true to form, Westside fought back, thanks to clutch shooting from the free-throw line with Calvin Hughes sinking a pair of shots to tie the game and force a second overtime.
Northside led again in the second overtime, only to see the Seminoles tie the score at 69 when Marcus Thomas scored off an offensive rebound.
The Eagles put Westside away in the third overtime. Down 73-71, the Eagles tied it at 73 on a shot by DeVon Tanner. Northside harnessed that momentum, leading 76-73 following a bucket by Jarius Smith and free-throw by Rodney Levine. A free throw by Christian Kennedy extending the Eagles lead to 77-73, making it a two-possession game with 15 seconds to play and putting the Seminoles away.
“We just fought it through and got it done,” Price said. “We were able to make those free throws at the end and win the ball game.”
Denard Williams led Northside with 14 points.
Westside’s girls will take on Jones County in tonight’s girls championship game at 7 p.m. The Lady Seminoles staved off Putnam County 44-41, with the Lady War Eagles missing a pair of 3-pointers in the final seconds, both of which bounced off the rim twice. Braxtyn Talton’s 15 points led Westside with Putnam’s Ta’Kierra Gibbs pouring in 29.