RALEIGH — Ravenscroft guard Anton Gill was the last player to leave the locker room. Ravens forward Joell Hopkins didn't mind waiting for him. And behind Hopkins were plenty of Ravenscroft basketball fans who wanted to congratulate Gill.
The second-ranked Ravens had survived fourth-ranked Middle Creek for a second time this season, only this time with a dramatic 59-57 victory at home Wednesday night.
Gill, who scored 11 points, didn't expect to the hero - a role he played in the first meeting - because Hopkins and point guard Madison Jones had carried the Ravens throughout the game.
With the Ravens trailing by one with 17 seconds left, the ball was in Jones' hands. But after a pick-and-roll play forced Gill's defender to help cover Jones, Gill was wide open in the corner. Jones turned down his tough shot to pass to Gill.
"I knew he made the right play," Gill said.
When Gill received the ball, he was standing behind the 3-point line. Although he wanted to get closer to the basket, Gill knew the clock had just two seconds remaining, which forced him to heave up a fadeaway 3-point attempt just before the buzzer went off.
The entire team and student section rushed to mob Gill, who had made his only 3-point basket of the game.
"I've made a few in junior high and AAU ball, but that was probably the most special," Gill said of his buzzer-beater. "I was in the stands for a second."
In the first game between the teams, Gill led the Ravens (18-2) with 16 points to give Ravenscroft its first Glaxo Smith Kline Holiday Invitational championship - a performance that earned him the tournament's MVP award.
"Anton is an outstanding player," coach Kevin Billerman said. "I know that we need him to play well for us to win."
That was the message Billerman gave Gill when he called a timeout with 17 second left. The play Billerman called was "Raven," a play that is designed to let either Jones or Gill shoot the ball.
Middle Creek defended the play well. The Mustangs wanted to stop Jones, who led all players with 16 points. Hopkins was a priority, too, because he kept the Ravens in the game with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
"We wouldn't have had a chance to win that game with Joell," Gill said. "This was really his game more than anyone else."
Hopkins moved to the top of the key in case Jones needed to pass the ball. But Hopkins was defended well, too, which set up for Gill to the lone man open.
"We didn't think their bigs could cover Madison on the drive, so we thought he could get to the rim," Billerman said. "The thing he does best is distribute the ball."
Jones found Gill, and the Ravens won the game, giving the Mustangs (18-2) their only two losses of the season.
Outside the locker room, Hopkins hugged Gill.
"That was an unbelievable shot," Hopkins told his teammate.
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