The Long County Blue Tide boys’ basketball team was back in the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2008 when they hosted the Johnson Atomsmashers on Wednesday, Feb. 26. They were looking to get to the semi-finals for the first time in Long County High School history, but their aspirations of a state championship were cut short with a 49-46 loss.
The Atomsmashers came into the game as the number three seed out of Region 3-AAA, more commonly referred to as the Savannah region, and being the more experienced playoff team. They have been in the quarterfinals every year since 2018 and won a state championship just seven years ago in 2013.
Johnson jumped out to an early 7-2 lead and their physical style looked like it would be too much for the Tide. Long County, however, kept pace with them and only trailed 11-6 going into the second quarter.
Once again, the Atomsmashers built an impressive 10-point lead early in the quarter and it looked like they could roll to an easy win. Senior Donovan Sykes finally gave the Tide some momentum with a big three-point shot, followed up by a big dunk from senior Trajan Weatherspoon to bring the Tide within one point.
The Tide trailed 18-15 and had a chance to tie the game, but junior Tostadas Pouncey missed two three point shots on the same possession. This allowed Johnson to go back down and hit a three point shot of their own, giving them a 21-15 lead with three minutes left in the first half.
Long County shut down Johnson for the remainder of the first half as they went on another 9-0 run, which included another big dunk from Weatherspoon. The Tide took a 22-21 lead late, their first lead since being up 2-0 at the start of the game, and eventually took a 24-21 lead into halftime.
The Tide came out hot again in the third quarter and eventually built a six-point, 35-29 lead over Johnson. However, the Atomsmashers settled in, hit two big three pointers, and grabbed the 37-35 lead, which was the score at the end of the third quarter.
It was another back-and-forth quarter that had the entire gym rockin. With three minutes left, Pouncey, after missing his first five shots, finally hit s three pointer that made the score 45-44 for Johnson. Weatherspoon gave his team the lead back on a layup with just under two minutes left.
The Tide and Atomsmashers battled for the last two minutes, which only saw a total of four points scored. Johnson took the 47-46 lead on a questionable layup. Sykes had the ball at midcourt before a Johnson player rolled into his legs, causing a turnover and a layup for the Atomsmashers.
Down by one, the Tide took a timeout with just seconds left on the clock. They drew up a play and were able to get a wide open look for Pouncey. He missed the three point shot and Johnson was able to put in a layup to take a 49-46 as time ticked away.
Sophomore Cam Johnson took the ball upcourt and heaved a shot from past halfcourt. The ball sailed through the air and bounced in and out of the rim as the final buzzer sounded.
The Tide finish their season with a record of 25-5, having won their first region championship since 2016.
This was their first Elite Eight appearance since 2008 and their fifth since 1977. They have a lot to look forward to in the next season.