(Franklin, GA) — The Braves found themselves in a position they hadn’t been in all season during a region game Thursday night in the Region 5-AA semifinals in Franklin.
The top-seeded Braves trailed the No. 4 seeded Tigers in a big way midway through the third before Dekari Brewer’s defense ignited a furious comeback that would be capped by a huge dunk from Emory Jones to give the Braves the lead and ultimately a 47-42 victory.
The Braves trailed 20-11 at the half and by as many as 15 points with five minutes to play in the third quarter before the rally.
A high pressure defense from a smaller lineup employed by Coach Keith Simmons seemed to fuel the late comeback and send the largest basketball crowd in recent memory into a frenzy.
Brewer had four steals in the latter part of the third period and turned a couple directly into baskets himself. Jones had the first of two big dunks to fire up the Brave student section in the same third quarter that saw the Braves cut the lead to 33-27.
Sophomore Alijah Huzzie was hot in the fourth quarter draining two big 3-pointers as the Braves capped off a 27-11 run to earn the trip to tonight’s Region 5-AA Championship game versus rival Callaway.
Jones and Huzzie led the way in scoring with 14 points each. Huzzie was 6-for-6 from the foul line late to seal the win. Jordarius Foster had eight and Brewer tallied six.
“We had some kids play in some unusual positions tonight as we tried to see what we could do to speed up the pace. We had to buckle down on our boxing out and rebounding at that point with our top two rebounders on the bench not because they weren’t playing well but because we had to find a way to up the tempo defensively,” said Coach Simmons after the game.
“Thankfully we were able to get our big guys back in later and we were able to hit some big free throws down the stretch. Temple had a great game plan but that’s what we need to see coming down the stretch to state is some different looks and some different people stepping up.”
The win secured a home playoff game for the Braves in the first round of the state playoffs next week, but the first year Brave coach knows his squad expended a lot of energy heading into tonight’s huge match-up with a peaking and very athletic Callaway squad.
“I’m glad we came back and won tonight, but we used up a lot of energy tonight to have to get back up the next day but that’s what we have to do that’s what good teams do — that’s not only in basketball but in life — you have a bad day at work you can’t just say I’m not going to work tomorrow,” Simmons said.
“It showed a lot of heart that our guys didn’t give up tonight but we’ve got a lot of work to do and a lot to talk about before Friday night.”
The Brave student section definitely played a part in the win as they clearly had several Tiger players rattled during the third quarter comeback.
The No. 2 seeded Cavaliers knocked off No. 2 Spencer 87-72 to earn their spot in tonight’s big game.
The Braves (21-4, 11-0 in Region 5-AA) will be aiming for the school’s first region boys basketball title in 57 years at home tonight. The game tips at approximately 8:30 PM or immediately following the girls’ title game.
In the boys consolation match-up at 5:30 today, Spencer will battle Temple for the No. 3 seed at state.