FUQUAY-VARINA — Athens Drive and Fuquay-Varina knew what was at stake Tuesday when their boys basketball teams met. It was was essentially a play-in game leading up to the Tri-9 Conference tournament.
The two teams have spent much of the year at the bottom of the standings. But only eight of the leagues teams get to play in the tournament, where the winner can advance to the state playoffs.
The game was played with fitting desperation, but the visiting Jaguars took a 53-49 overtime win against Fuquay.
Fuquay led at the end of each of the first four quarters.
The guys had resilience, Athens coach Robert Clemons Jr. said. We fought through missed shots, missed layups, but we just kept hanging in there. The guys came through and made some big shots.
Highlight reel: With under 10 seconds to play, senior Jason West hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 45-45 and send the game to overtime.
West said the play was put in the playbook a few weeks ago in practice.
Its usually for a drive but if I have the shot I can take it, West said. I had the shot, and thats just what youve got to do.
West also played a crucial part in overtime, sinking six of eight free throws.
We just had to keep fighting, West said. I think it took us a while to figure out what we needed to do, and when we got rolling at the end they just couldnt respond.
Putting up numbers: West led the Jaguars with 21 points, grabbed six rebounds and had four steals. Junior guard Lawrence Christmas, arguably the biggest story of the night, finished with 20 points, five rebounds and four steals, off the bench.
Lawrence kept us in the game and Jason hit that big shot at the end, Clemons said.
What worked: Fuquay-Varinas methodical attack led by senior guard D.J. Lee kept the game at the Bengals pace. It wasnt until the second half that Athens Drive upped its defensive pressure, giving the Bengals fits.
Turning point: It looked as if the Bengals (1-19, 1-13) would run away with the score towards the end of the third quarter, but due to costly turnovers the Jaguars were able to weather the storm. F-V went up five points after a putback by Dedric Byrd but was forced into turnovers on the next two possessions.
Christmas, as he did all game, capitalized at a pivotal moment by hitting a 3-pointer. He caught fire, answering Bengal baskets deep into the fourth quarter.
Youve got to make the most out of everything you get and be ready whether youre starting or not, Christmas said. Just be ready to come out and contribute to the team at all times.
Best quote: For us, since the position were in, I told the kids tonight, this is our playoffs, Clemons Jr. said. We just move to another round. We just take it one game at a time, and we want to get better
Feeling the impact: Fuquay will need to win out to get into the conference tournament and hope Athens Drive (4-17, 3-10) loses out. If that happens, Fuquay would have the upper hand on the best win tiebreaker.