With the LaGrange Grangers and Shaw Raiders knotted up at 58-58 with moments left in the game, the ball ended up in the hands of senior Baron Smith.
He didn’t hesitate.
He let the ball sail, it was right on target, and it dropped through the net to give the Grangers what appeared to be a three-point lead since it was originally ruled a 3-pointer.
The officials eventually decided it was just a two-point field goal, but it was enough.
The Raiders got a good look at the basket as time expired, but the shot went awry, and the Grangers walked away with a 60-58 victory in the Region 5-AAAA opener for both teams.
“I wanted to shoot. I wanted the ball,” Smith said. “A teammate said, I’m the hot man right now. When he said that, I wanted to make the best out of it. I was ready to shoot, and luckily it went in. I was elated about that.”
The Grangers trailed by as many as seven points early in the fourth period, but they charged back to take a four-point lead before Shaw scored four straight points to tie it at 58-58.
The Grangers got the ball with 24 seconds left, and they ran the clock down and Smith hit his clutch shot with four seconds left.
The Raiders inbounded the ball and hit a 3-pointer, but the shot didn’t count since one of the officials blew his whistle, and the play was dead at that point.
LaGrange tried to call a timeout right after Smith’s basket, but the whistle giving them the timeout didn’t come until the Raiders had advanced the ball down the court.
After LaGrange’s timeout, Shaw got the ball at midcourt, and the inbounds pass went to 6-foot-5 senior Cedarius Brantley, who was unable to hit the tying shot.
The Grangers struggled early.
The Raiders rolled to a 13-4 lead, and they were up 13-7 after the first quarter.
In the second period, the Raiders led by as many as 13 points, although a Kwame Brown 3-pointer allowed LaGrange to cut Shaw’s lead to 30-20 at the half.
The Grangers picked things up in the third period, getting as close as five, but the Raiders still held a 49-42 lead heading into the final quarter.
The Grangers dominated the action for much of the fourth quarter, and they went up 55-54 when Dee Smith converted a three-point play with 2:57 left.
LaGrange then went ahead by four when Smith made three free throws with 2:44 left, but Shaw scored the next four points to set up the late-game drama.
“We had a slow start. We picked up the intensity in the second half,” Smith said. “The defense started cranking up, and that’s where it starts. The intensity was better.”