FORT VALLEY, Ga. - All the work the Josey boys basketball team had done this year, all the goals the Eagles had set came down to a shot with two seconds leftSaturday night.
West Laurens center Warren McLendon swatted it all away.
McLendon blocked junior guard Rashad Glover's shot, and the Raiders rallied to defeat Josey in a heartbreaker, 64-62, in the first round of the Georgia Class AAA playoffs at Peach County High School.
Afterward, coach Emmett Rouse reflected on the season.
"It's definitely a heartbreaker," Rouse said. "I still don't think we played up to our potential. We never had a complete game all year."
It's exactly what happened against the Raiders (24-4).
Josey (23-4) was outstanding in the second quarter, out-scoring West Laurens 21-9. Raider Mike Arline hit a last-second 3-pointer and opened the second half hitting two more to cut into the Eagles' lead.
"We gave them the momentum at the half," Rouse said. "And they came back and kept it going."
The Raiders took a 56-48 lead with 2:47 to play, but the Eagles - led by Travon McGruder - cut the lead to 63-57.
From there, Josey forced three consecutive turnovers and went on a quick 5-0 run to make it 63-62 with 12 seconds left.
After Raphael Hanard continued West Laurens' hopeless free-throw shooting - the Raiders were 17-of-40 from the free-throw line - by hitting one of two foul shots, the game rested on Glover's shoulders.
"I wanted him to penetrate and drop it down to McGruder," Rouse said. "He thought he had the lane, and (McLendon) just made a great block."
West Laurens was led by McLendon's 16 points, but no play was bigger than his last.
Josey fouled McLendon with one second left, but he missed the first shot and deliberately bricked the second one to end the game.
"We shot free throws terrible, but in the end, we hit them when they mattered," said West Laurens coach Paul Williams, whose team hit six of eight foul shots (minus McLendon's misses) with 1:33 left. "All that matters at this point is staying alive. That's what we did."
Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216. or email@example.com.
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