By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
MACON – Houston coach Bruce Franks, his team trailing Leake Central by two points with under 10 seconds remaining in Tuesday’s Division 4-4A tournament opener, had these instructions for his players.
“We’re not going to run a set play, because we might not have time,” he said. “I told them to take the best shot possible.”
When Leake Central’s Cashmere Dawson missed two consecutive free throws with 9.6 seconds remaining, Houston’s Chris Jones grabbed the rebound. The bulky 6-foot-6 junior center took the ball coast-to-coast for buzzer-beating layup.
The basket tied the score at 72-72 and led to an eventual 90-77 overtime win for the Hilltoppers.
“You know what Chris told me after the game? Coach, that was the best shot,” Franks said, then smiled.
Jones, who scored 22 points, was confident he could make the game-tying shot.
“I guess I took a chance,” he said, then smiled. “I don’t think (Leake Central) thought I could make it down there.
“I had an open lane, so I took it.”
Houston (19-7) advanced to Thursday’s 5:30 p.m. semifinals against tournament host Noxubee County. The win also earned the Hilltoppers a berth in next week’s North state tournament.
“Coach told we had to win this game or go home,” Jones said. “We didn’t want to go home. This has been one of Houston’s best seasons. It could have ended tonight.”
Houston guard Devoris Ivy scored eight of his 13 points in the overtime, including back-to-back 3-pointers in the opening minute to give his team a 78-72 lead.
Leake Central (13-9), which led by 10 points with 6:14 left in regulation, opened the door for Houston’s comeback by missing six consecutive free throws in the final two minutes.
Anquan Russell also scored 22 points and Lazerick Pulliam added 19 for Houston.
In the girls game, Kosciusko ended Houston’s season with a 58-44 win.