Tyrese Harris stood at the foul line nervously touching the back of his black sneakers.
With 9.7 seconds left in the game, the Butler junior forward needed to drain one free throw to give the Bulldogs the lead. He tried to brush away the thought of the two missed free throws earlier in the game. Then after Statesboro called a timeout, Harris stepped to the line, but the Butler timekeeper accidentally reset the clock, further freezing Harris.
"I was getting nervous," he admitted. "But I kept saying, 'I got this. I got this.'
"It was like there was nobody in the gym."
Only there was. In front of a standing-room-only crowd, Harris popped the free throw and the No. 4-ranked Bulldogs pulled off a thrilling 44-41 victory over No. 8 Statesboro on Friday night.
Marcus Curry scored a team-high 14 as Butler continued its perfect season, improving to 18-0 overall and 4-0 in Region 3-AAAA. Harris chipped in with 13 points, while Rickey McGhee added 11.
"Although we're very excited, it's just another win," Butler coach Rob Johnson said.
Maybe just another comeback, too. Statesboro (16-2) led by five entering the final period, but Butler pulled within two in the final minute. After a Blue Devils turnover, Harris got the ball inside. He pumped once and made the layup as he was fouled.
After Harris hit the free throw, Johnson called a timeout. Statesboro's Ronnell Wooten pushed the ball ahead to Coutnei Houston, and Houston drove the lane for the winning layup, but Butler senior forward Lavert Carter didn't let it happen, though, swatting the shot.
The Bulldogs received the ball, and in the frenzy, Scott Edwards busted downcourt for a breakaway dunk at the buzzer. An impromptu mosh pit broke out in front of the stage as Butler fans rushed the court to celebrate the win with the team.
As Edwards scored the basket, the normally-reserved Johnson jumped up and down on the sideline. He broke his watchband in the excitement.
"I usually don't get that fired up," he said. "But it's hard to keep a long winning streak alive."
Earlier in the game, it appeared Butler was headed for its first loss. The Bulldogs missed five of six shots over the final four minutes of the first half, and Statesboro led 29-22 at halftime.
Butler continued its cold stretch, missing its first six shots of the third period. Harris broke the spell with a 12-foot jumper. He added a layup a minute later, pulling the Bulldogs within 31-26.
In the girls game, April Jordan scored 16, and Rasheeda Jones added 15 as Statesboro pulled away for an easy 69-35 win. Butler had no player score in double digits and dropped to 0-14 this season.
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222, ext. 114.
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