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Panthers win in overtime by 1 (55-54)
Head to Elite Eight in Columbus
William Lee hit some critical baskets and intercepted the ball with three seconds left in overtime to keep the Panthers ahead at the buzzer. - photo by By Patty Leon / Coastal Courier
When Shaw charged in as the underdog against NE Macon last Friday they set their goal on toppling them and did so in overtime.
When they strolled into the Panthers' court Tuesday night they assumed they would do the same.
Shaw was 3.7 seconds away from downing the Liberty County Panthers 49-46 when a loose ball set to go out of bounds was suddenly snatched by Roderick Jones in mid air and tossed to Rion Brown.
Without hesitation he jumped and threw. The ball circled the rim and fell through the net as the buzzer sounded and the officials threw his hands in the air, indicating it was good for three.
For Shaw it was déjà vu as they prepped for overtime. For the Panthers it was crunch time as officials set the clock for the 4 minutes yet to come.
"Well we always tell them it's hard to get it when we have to, but he stepped up and did it," Panther coach Willie Graham said of Brown's shot sending the game into overtime.
Shaw, however, was not backing down. They've been in overtime situations before and, like the "S" they wear in their warm up shirts, reminiscent of the Superman symbol, they scored faster than a speeding bullet. They also out maneuvered the Panthers, drawing several free throw shots and extending their lead.
With 23 seconds left in overtime the Panthers trailed by one, 54-53.
But even Superman can be brought down with kryptonite and Donrico Wigfall apparently had a pocketful as he let the clock wind down to 8 seconds before landing the shot and getting a one point lead.
Shaw brought the ball into play and had a pass intercepted by William Lee. He tucked the ball tight and held on until he heard the buzzer to end the game.
The players and the fans went into a frenzy after realizing the Panthers were in the Elite Eight.
Graham said it appeared the team finally matured.
"All of our players have confidence," Graham said. "They all believe they are the best thing on offense. But it's one thing to have that confidence and get that confidence as a team. Tonight they did it as a team."
The coach said he expected Shaw would run and he was expecting his squad to slow them down a bit. His team lost composure when Shaw switched to a triangle defense. It was the first time Graham had seen Jordan McRae become frustrated until he told him to treat it like a zone.
"We let them get back in the game," Graham said. "They should have never been that close. We let them back in and then at the end they let us back in.
Graham told his players to not give up.
"We told them the game is not over," he said. "There is still plenty of time but we have to start playing like it's the last minute. We just have to keep it up and see where it leads us, keep working hard. We just kept reassuring them it's not over."
Credit the performance of Lee, Wigfall, Brown and McRae who all sank three-pointers to bring the Panthers back into the game in the fourth quarter. Credit the entire Panther squad for carrying each other to the end.
The Panthers (23-4) enter the Elite Eight and are scheduled to play at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday at Columbus State University against the Carver Columbus Tigers (20-9).

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