It was an exciting way for Rhett Hellgren to begin his head-coaching days at Bradwell.
Miguel Pineda’s free throw with less than two seconds left lifted the host Tigers to a 67-66 win Tuesday over McIntosh County Academy in long-time Bradwell assistant Hellgren’s first game as head coach.
Bradwell and MCA were neck-in-neck as regulation ticked away. The Tigers led by three in the final 18 seconds.
MCA hit a layup, the Tigers responded with a free throw and the BI gym was loud as fans jumped from their seats as BI held a late 66-64 lead.
MCA drove down court and notched what appeared to be the overtime-clinching basket.
But the Buccaneers would have to hold their celebration and their collective breath as they fouled the Tigers’ Miguel Pineda just before the buzzer.
Pineda, one of the Tigers’ many accurate shooters, was sent to the line after 1.6 seconds were put back on the clock.
The ball swooshed cleanly through the net on Pineda’s shot, and MCA wasn’t able to get the rebound as time ran out.
“They have worked their tails off in practice, and tonight it paid off,” Hellgren said, adding the Buccaneers started making a run in the second half when his players didn’t box out enough at the line. “We went in at half time and really tried to break down what they were trying to do against our offense and showed them how to break the half-court press. It helped out and they did a fine job of executing what we talked about in the locker room.”
Bradwell’s Malcolm Dingle led the scoring with 20 points, 14 of which came from the line. Michael Burnett had a strong second half and finished with 12 points for the Tigers.
Pineda also added a little flair earlier in the game by hitting buzzer-beating shots at end of the first and second quarters to maintain Tiger leads. He finished the game with 12 points, including two 3-pointers. The third and fourth quarter remained relatively close with five points being the widest point spread.
The Tigers travel Saturday to Brunswick and host Beach High on Tuesday.
Tigers: 19|17|13|18 – 67
Bucs: 12|23|12|19 – 66