It was good Long County basketball fan last weekend as the Blue Tide beat defending AAA State Champ Liberty County on Friday and then beat arch-rival Wayne County on Saturday.
Friday, the Blue Tide hosted Liberty County for both’s first 2-AAA game of the season. The first half went back and forth, and a late second period surge by Long County put the home team up 42-36 at the half 42-36. The Panthers fought back to a 68-68 tie with just over two minutes left.
As Liberty County worked the ball down court, Long County’s Henry Blair stole it and went up for an easy layup to break the tie. On the Panthers’ next possession they again turned the ball over, and Christian Bass drew a foul. He made one of his free-throws to extend Long County’s lead to three.
With under a minute to play, Liberty County’s Will Richardson drew a foul, but made only one of his shots, narrowing his team’s deficit to 71-73 with 29 seconds left. Then, Liberty County intentionally fouled Ryheim Izzard. And he missed both free-throws. The Panthers got the ball back.
Liberty County’s Joshua Washington brought the ball in and drew a foul on a layup. He hit his first shot, but missed his second, narrowing the gap 73-72. Long County got the ball in, but aggressive defense by Liberty County knocked the ball loose.
Both teams scrambled for possession, and the Blue Tide somehow was called for a loose-ball foul as time appeared to expire. After a brief conference, officials determined that one second remained. Liberty County’s Jyaunti Haggray stood at the free-throw line with the chance to win or at least tie the game. Everyone in the packed gym was on their feet. Both of his shots missed, giving Long County the one-point victory.
After the game, Blue Tide head coach Deshon Brock said it was an important region game.
“I looked at it as a region game against a very good team,” the coach said. “It was big but it still was a game we expected to win.”
He said he was proud of his entire team, but that Izzard stood out.
“Ryheim Izzard really stepped up to the challenge,” Brock said. “He guarded one of the best players (Will Richardson) in the state tonight and never backed down from the challenge.”
Brock said the win gives his players confidence.
“This win tells us that we can play with anybody,” he said. “It tells us that on any given night we can beat anybody in the state.”
Long County’s leading scorers were Blair, who had 10 points, Izzard 12, Bass 17 and Terry Smith led with 19 points. Liberty’s leading scorers were Tyreon Freeman 22 and Richardson, who led all shooters, with 28 points.
Liberty County fell to 4-4 overall and 0-1 in the region.
Saturday, Long County was back at home against nemesis Wayne County. The Blue Tide played solid, beating the Yellow Jackets 82-63. With the loss, Wayne County dropped to 2-6 overall. The leading scorers for the Blue Tide were Izzard 12 points, Bass 15, Blair 18 and Smith who led with 20.
Long County’s overall record now is 7-3 and 1-0 in the region. Friday, the Blue Tide takes on the Bears in Pierce County in another region matchup. Tipoff for the game is at 7:30 p.m.