KENNESAW, Ga. — Aquinas shooting guard Ahmed Hill scored 29 points, teammate Michael Scott added 18, but in the end the high-scoring duo weren't enough to put the Fighting Irish in the Class A Private state championship game.
Aquinas fell 61-56 to St. Francis at the Convocation Center on Kennesaw State University campus Friday night.
Trailing 59-56 with less than a minute left in the game and St. Francis possessing the ball, Aquinas forced a turnover on the inbound pass that gave it one last chance at moving on. However, the hot-hands of Hill and Scott went cold as both missed attempts on the ensuing possession. St. Francis forward Jordan Jones knocked down two free-throws in the final seconds to secure the victory for the Knights.
“The play was drawn up for me to come off the screen and knock down the shot,” Hill said. “It just didn't drop at that moment.”
It was evident that Aquinas would need all of the help it could get from the 6-foot-5 Hill, as the Fighting Irish were significantly out-measured in height. The Fighting Irish's offensive attack relied on perimeter shooting throughout the contest, most of which came from Hill.
Hill was held without a basket in the first quarter as Aquinas slipped into an 18-9 hole. From that point, he was on fire.
“He struggled early. We couldn't get any type of rythym,” Aquinas coach Bernie Norris said. “In the second half we played much better and got in sync. He gave us his usual performance, he's coming to play every night.”
Scott was an exception when it came to Aquinas attacking the size and length of its opponent. He tied the game at 50 in the third quarter, taking contact and hitting a layup from under the basket.
Missed free throws and shorter baskets in the final minutes ending up being the difference, where St. Francis elected to play conservative and drain clock.
“We need to do a better job of controlling the ball,” Norris said.
“We didn't finish. We missed eight free throws down the stretch and three layups at the end that would have put us over the top.”
While Hill’s final shot fell short, he's not convinced it was the last time he'd have a chance to lead his team to a title.
“I'm getting back,” Hill said. “We're going to the championship next year.”