The Long County Blue Tide boys basketball team kept their season going on Thursday, February 20. They hosted the Franklin County Lions in the Sweet Sixteen round of the AAA state playoffs with a chance to host the quarterfinals on the line. With getting a sizable lead early in the game, the Blue Tide never looked back as they moved on to a 66-57 win.
The Lions came into the game ranked as one of the best teams in the state even after being upset in the Region 8 championship game. The Tide knew they were in for a tough matchup and the back-and-forth first quarter proved that.
The Tide and Lions traded the lead for the first few minutes of the game before junior Tostadas Pouncey, who did not make a single three point shot in the first round game, hit a big three point shot that got the crowd on their feet. After taking a 7-5 lead, the Tide never gave up the lead again. They led 15-10 going into the second quarter.
It was again another great quarter as the two teams traded the momentum back and forth. It was a run midway through the quarter that finally swung it back to the Tide. They went on a 6-2 run to take a 24-14 lead with four minutes left in the first half.
Pouncey attempted his third three point shot of the night but was fouled on the shot. He went to the line and hit two of his three free throws and increased the Tide’s lead to 12. The Tide seemed poised to go into the half up 30-18 but a costly foul on a last second three point attempt gave the Lions a chance to make the score 30-20 going into the locker room.
Throughout the season, Long County has played its best basketball in the third quarter, averaging just shy of 20 points. Thursday’s game was no different. While the Tide didn’t put up 20 in the quarter, they held Franklin County to just three points.
The Tide built a 35-22 lead as senior Samuel Turner went to the line. That is when the biggest play of the night happened. He sunk his first free throw to make it 36-22, but missed his second. Sophomore Cam Johnson not only grabbed the offensive rebound but threw down a monstrous putback jam to give the Tide a 38-22 lead and all the momentum they needed to go into the fourth quarter up 42-23.
Long County held a 56-41 lead with around three minutes left to play. However, the Lions proved why they were one of the best teams in the state and belonged in the Sweet Sixteen. They switched to a press defense and put a ton of pressure on the Blue Tide. They eventually went on an 8-2 run to get the deficit back under double-digits for the first time since early in the second quarter.
The Tide held a 58-49 lead with 2:10 left in the contest. It seemed that the Lions were getting their momentum back at the right time. They went on another run, 5-2, to make the score 60-54. However, the Tide were able to control the ball just well enough to force Franklin County to foul them.
The team was 12-17 from the line in the fourth quarter alone with Pouncey playing a huge part in their success. He was 7-9 from the line in the quarter. The Tide held on for the 66-57 lead.
In the game, Pouncey led with 17 points and was 9-12 from the free throw line. Johnson had 10 points, including two huge dunks. Senior Trajan Weatherspoon scored 12 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Fellow senior Xavier Carlton scored 13 points, pulled down seven rebounds and was 5-6 from the charity stripe, missing just one in the fourth quarter.
With the win, the Blue Tide move on to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2008. That year, the quarterfinals were played at neutral site Savannah State. This year, however, it will be played in Ludowici.
The Tide will host the Atomsmashers of Johnson High in Savannah either on Tuesday, February 25 or Wednesday, February 26. Long County will be looking for their first ever trip to the Final Four. The Blue Tide have won a state championship before in 1961, but that was when the high school was still called Ludowici High. The school was renamed Long County High School in the mid 1970s.