A reporter asked Thomson boys basketball coach Michael Thomas on Saturday night if his team had ever won a state title.
Thomas said that he'd been to the Final Four several times but had never won a state title at the school. Then with a sly grin on his face, he cracked, "Not yet."
For the first time in five seasons, the Bulldogs will be heading to the state basketball tournament next weekend in Albany after a thrilling 50-48 victory over Monroe in the first round of the Class AAA state tournament played at the Richmond Academy gym.
But Thomson's Lady Bulldogs won't be making a trip to the state tournament. The Lady Bulldogs ran into a brick wall Saturday night, dropping a 60-42 decision to Crisp County's Lady Cougars. Crisp built a big lead early in the contest, then put the game on cruise control and rolled to an easy win.
Thomson's boys built leads as high as 10 points in their game, only to watch Monroe use a late fourth quarter rally and take a brief lead on a three-pointer and a long field goal from Altravious Thomas to tie the game at 47-47 with 2:30 left.
Thomson used a free throw from Tobias McCord to regain the lead at 48-47 with 2:11 left, but Monroe's 6-foot-6 center Chris Daniels sank one of his two free throws to re-tie the game at 48.
But a costly turnover by the Bulldogs with less than a minute left in the contest gave the Tornadoes a chance to win the game. Driving to the basket, Monroe's Cotrez Frazier was fouled, but missed both of his free throws with 28 seconds left in the game.
Thomson grabbed the rebound, then attempted to play for the final shot and the win. Anthony Young went up for a basket, missed the shot but got tangled up going for the rebound and the official ruled a jump ball. Fortunately, the Bulldogs regained possession with six seconds left and Kyle Murray drew a foul driving in the lane.
With five seconds left, Murray sank both of his free throws, then Monroe's game-winning basket sailed off the rim, lifting the Bulldogs into the state tournament.
"I didn't have any doubts," Thomas said of Murray sinking the game-winning free throws. "We drew it up for Kyle all the way and we felt that if he got it (the ball), something good would happen -- either he'd score or he'd get fouled.
"Either way, I knew he'd come through. He had an older brother Kenny that played for us and he came through for us several times. So it's in the genes."
Murray's free throws capped a wild celebration at center court and his teammates carried him off the court on their shoulders. The Bulldogs will now meet Jordan High Friday at 5:30 p.m. in the state sectionals in the Albany Civic Center.
"I just did what my brother told me to do," Murray said. "Don't think about it and just go to the line and shoot. Monroe is a very good team and they took us all the way to the end. But coach Thomas getting on to me in practice every day about my free throws paid off."
Murray finished with nine points while McCord led the Bulldogs with 17 points.
In the girls game, Monique Martin led Thomson with 11 points while Star Jackson added 10.
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