Twice in the first half, Thomasville High looked ready to run away and hide from host Thomas County Central.
Both times the Yellow Jackets responded and it gave them a chance to knock off their cross-town rival late.
However, a turnover with nine seconds remaining and then a missed jumper from Matt Priest at the buzzer allowed the Bulldogs to escape with a 43-42 win.
“They came back and that’s because of the type of coach, coach (Chad) Ward is,” THS coach Ben Tillman said. “He’s tough and resilient. And his team demonstrated that same kind of attitude.”
That resiliency, though, didn’t make the loss any easier for Central.
“It’s tough, but that’s what rival games are about,” Central coach Chad Ward added. “We had our chances, we just have to execute on them.
“We wanted that bad.”
The Jackets (4-10) led 1-0 little more than three minutes into the game but didn’t lead again until Priest scored off a Malcolm McClenton pass with 7:23 left in the game.
However, the Bulldogs (5-6) went right back ahead as Kenneth Hayes scored off an Andrew Parker pass 21 seconds later and THS led the rest of the way. But the Bulldogs still had their work cut out.
After Henri Abrams stretched Thomasville’s lead to 41-36 with 2:55 to go, Central went back on the attack. Chris Jones immediately answered with a 3-pointer and then after Abrams, who scored eight of his 10 points in the final quarter, pushed the lead back to four with 2:16 left, Central had its opportunities.
“Henri got the ball and went and scored, and that’s what we’re looking for,” Tillman said. “The big guys had another good game today, but we’ve got to find them some help and that’s going to come down to the guard play.”
Holding THS without a point for that final 136 seconds, the Jackets clawed within three on an Austin Bryant free throw with 1:35 left and then within 43-42 on a Bryant bucket down low with 44 seconds remaining in the game.
However, Central’s next possession ended with a turnover trying to get the ball inside again to Bryant, who finished with nine points and seven rebounds. And then after Abrams missed a free throw, the Jackets advanced the ball to midcourt with 2.6 seconds left to set up one last chance.
However, Priest’s jumper from the left baseline was short.
The Jackets had that chance late because they withstood a pair of THS runs in the first half. Tied at 4, the Bulldogs scored eight straight to grab a 12-4 lead less than a minute into the second quarter. Central, though, rattled off eight straight of its own as Deondre Cooksey and Malik Brown each hit 3s. The Bulldogs then answered with a 6-0 run before Central again tied the game before Abrams hit a basket with seven seconds left in the half to put THS back on top at the break.
THS was led by Quinton Addison’s 13 points and Parker added seven points and 11 rebounds. Jones paced Central with 11 points while Joe Adams added eight.
THS girls 38, Central 36
The Jackets (4-8) never led and were tied for only 36 seconds. However, they missed a layup in the final 10 seconds that would have knotted the score again. But Ashley O’Neal’s shot rimmed out and Danisha Jones pulled in the rebound to help the Bulldogs (8-3) hold on.
“Apparently, this is the type of game we have to play,” THS coach Antonio Wade said. “I don’t mind playing low-scoring, defensive games but we missed too many open shots.”
Thomasville twice led by eight points in the first quarter but couldn’t stretch it more as Ricarsha Johnson got in foul trouble after scoring six points early. She finished with nine.
Still, whenever the Jackets pulled close, Thomasville answered even through a third quarter that saw the Bulldogs get all six of their points from the free throw line. That drought from the floor allowed Central to battle back from a 31-23 deficit midway through the period as Jade Guyton, who led the Jackets with 10 points, scored off a putback and then scored on a three-point play to make it 31-29. Guyton earlier hit a 3-pointer in the quarter as all her points came in the second half.
But Sapphire Austin scored six points in the fourth to keep THS out in front. Jones led the Bulldogs with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“She can play,” Wade said. “Sometimes I have to get on her to get her excited and ready to play. She’s such a mild-mannered personality, we have to get her going. And when she does, she’s hard to stop.”