With their backs to the wall, their lead completely gone and less than two minutes to play in a game that could have ended their season, the RCHS Tigers and guard Zack Caldwell found a way to survive.
Caldwell broke a 44-44 tie with a clutch three-pointer with 1:31 left in the game and RCHS held on down the stretch for a 51-46 win over Horseshoe Bend to keep their season alive for at least one more game.
The game was the area tournament opener for both teams, the No. 4 vs. No. 5 teams fighting for a chance to take on area winner Lanett Wednesday. RCHS earned that right with a hard-fought victory on the road against a Generals team that had finished one game ahead of the Tigers in the regular season standings.
RCHS led for most of the game and was able to jump out early thanks to some nifty interior passing by Noah Turner and Avion Willis. The lead got as large as nine points at 22-13 early in the second quarter before the Generals began to work their way back into the ballgame.
But every time they closed the gap, RCHS was able to come up with an answer. The lead was down to one point at 34-33 in the closing seconds of the third quarter, but the Tigers’ Joshua Burns banked in a half-court shot at the buzzer to give his team a 4-point cushion going into the final quarter.
Horseshoe Bend tied it on a driving layup by Brandon Tidwell with 1:47 left to play, but Caldwell’s three, followed by another key basket and a pair of free throws by Desmond Bragg in the final minute, made the difference.
Caldwell finished with 13 points, while Willis added 11 points and 8 rebounds. Turner finished one point shy of a double double with nine points and 10 rebounds.
Horseshoe Bend’s David Johnson led all scorers with 19 points, and Tidwell finished with 15.
RCHS will take on Lanett Wednesday night at Lanett at 5 p.m. The two teams did not play during the regular season as RCHS was forced to forfeit both scheduled contests due to COVID quarantine measures early in the season. Lanett enters the game with a record of 13-4. The Panthers were ranked No. 5 in the state in class 2A in last week’s final ASWA top 10 poll.
Girls – Horseshoe Bend 48, RCHS 18
The RCHS girls saw their season come to an end in a 48-18 loss at Horseshoe Bend in the area tournament Monday.
RCHS hung around through the first few minutes of the third quarter as the Lady Tigers trailed just 28-16 after a three-pointer by Kaitlynn Overton with 5:48 left in the third quarter.
But Horseshoe Bend scored the game’s next 20 points, and RCHS only managed a pair of free throws the rest of the way.
Overton led RCHS with seven points and added six rebounds. Laura Fendley had four points and seven boards for the Lady Tigers.
Reagan Taylor led the Lady Generals with 19 points, while Caly Carlisle added 12 points and six rebounds. Horseshoe Bend advanced to take on top seeded LaFayette in the area semifinals Tuesday night.