All season the Long County boys basketball team found a way to win close games at the buzzer. But Saturday they were unable to conjure up the magic, losing to Early County, 75-77, in the first round of the state playoffs.
Playing in front of a packed house in Ludowici, both teams started tight with several turnovers. But once the Blue Tide’s Jarquez Payne hit a long 3-pointer, both squads settled down. At the end of the first period, the Bobcats led, 17-14.
In the second period, a quicker Early County team frustrated the home team, causing several Tide turnovers. By the end of the period the visitors had a 34-25 lead.
In the third period, led by Jamaal Anderson, the Blue Tide came out with vengeance, going on a 12-1 run to take the lead 37-35. But a Bobcat surge put them back on top, 55-50, going into the final period.
In the fourth, the Tide fought back once again and, with a slam-dunk by Henry Peoples, Long County went back on top, 57-55. Over the next four minutes, the teams fought tooth-and-nail.
With nine seconds left, Early County led, 77-75. The Blue Tide brought the ball in, and got it in the hands of Anderson, their hot shooter. The junior, who had 18 points in the second half, didn’t hesitate.
Initially, his jump shot looked good, but on this night, luck was on the visiting team’s side. The ball bounced off the rim.
“We played hard, but we didn’t execute down the stretch,” Blue Tide head coach Deshon Brock said. “We dug a hole for ourselves that was too deep, and we were unable to recover from it.”
For the Blue Tide, Anderson added 18 points and Chris LaRochester had 10.
Darontay McCoy led the Bobcats with 28 points. Also scoring in double figures for the Bobcats were Jacori Taylor who had 12 and Ladonis Yarborough with 16.
With the win Early County (23-6) advanced into the second round, taking on Morgan County (24-4).
The Blue Tide (18-9) begin looking toward next year.
The team will lose seniors Peoples, Payne and Johnnae Jones. Returning players who saw substantial playing time this year should include LaRochester, Anderson, Josh Berry and Jeffery Hall. Other players who should be back or move up from JV include Vanda Vareen, Kalope McCray, Deonte’ Ellis, Richard Mesa, David Gilmore, Gage Kasperian and James Francis.
Go to www.coastalcourier.com to see more pictures from the game.