Bleckley County survives Westside comeback on two late free throws

Bleckley County 62, Westside 61

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Westside overcame a 22-point deficit and the loss of its go-to threat in the final minutes. But two last-second free throws ended the Patriots’ comeback and season.

Bleckley County’s Rydealous Taylor made two free throws with 2.8 seconds left, giving the Royals a 62-61 win over Westside in the second round of the Class AA state playoffs on Saturday.

“We didn’t always pass the eye-ball test, but we always believed and always battled,” Westside coach Marvin Fields said. “You can’t ask for more than that.”

Bleckley County (26-3) survived using the big-man combination of Taylor and Mario Beck, totaling 49 of the team’s points. When Beck fouled out with three minutes remaining, Taylor took the reins and hit the two biggest shots of the game at the line.

Taylor ended with 25 points, while Beck had 24.

For Westside (20-4), the Patriots were down 22-7 after the first quarter, and eventually 29-7, before a slow comeback that began in the second quarter. Westside outscored Bleckley County in every quarter but the first, starting 15-13 in the second.

The Patriots charged out of the locker room in the third quarter and were down single digits by 6:14 in the period. They climbed to within 48-46 at the end of the third quarter, outscoring the Royals 24-13 in the period.

“We never quit,” Fields said. “Even when we were down by a large margin, we battled like we have all year.”

The comeback hit a potential snag at the six-minute mark when Westside’s Frank Booker fouled out with 22 points. It would prove to be the final appearance of his Westside career. Despite that, Quinton Phillips led the Patriots to their first tie at 57 with 2:20 left.

Phillips hit a jumper with 1:20 left in the game for Westside’s first lead, 59-58, before Taylor made two free throws to give the Royals a 60-59 lead with one minute left. Westside’s Jaman Griffin hit a jumper with 14 seconds left for a 61-60 Westside lead.

Bleckley County put the ball in Taylor’s hands for the final shot, which he drove to the basket and was fouled. He made both shots.

Phillips ran into foul trouble and sat for much of the first half, scoring eight of his 12 points down the stretch.

“So much can be accomplished when you play a team game and no one cares who gets the credit. That’s how this team was all year. They just played,” Fields said.


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