Of course “every basket” and “everybody’s play” was critical, but none bigger than Jaydon Norman’s in the final seconds of Warner Robins’ Class AAAAA Elite Eight matchup at Lithonia Wednesday.
With about 20 seconds on the clock, and with the Demons up by one, 65-64, Norman stole the ball and was fouled on his way down the court. The good news was that finally put Warner Robins in the double bonus. The bad news was he missed both.
However, following the second, the ball got loose on the floor. He chased it down and got fouled again – this time with just a tick over 11 seconds remaining.
This time he hit both. That made it 67-64, Demons (the eventual final score). Lithonia, still with a chance to tie, then missed the three-point attempt, and it was Norman who grabbed the rebound and preserved the win.
Norman finished the night with eight points. Nelson Phillips finished with 21. Nine of his came in the first five minutes and helped the Demons at least keep pace with the host. It led from the first shot to start the game until the first buzzer sounded, 19-16. Jacolbey Owens began to heat up later in the quarter and then continued to be his consistent self the rest of the way. He finished with 22.
The game was tied at 28 at the half but Warner Robins was up 54-50 after three. Owens’ 3-pointer and basket to jumpstart the fourth actually helped Warner Robins build its biggest lead of the night … a “whopping” five, 57-52.
Lithonia eventually got it back to a tie, 61-all, with just over a minute to play. Phillips then put back a shot to make it 63-61, which was followed by Champ Dawson’s two free throws. Lithonia cut it to within one, 65-64, with three trips to the line. On one of those the shooter missed all three attempts. But then again, Warner Robins missed the front side of a one-and-one also during that time, not to mention Norman’s two already mentioned.
Nevertheless Warner Robins earned the win and will play Clarke Central in the Final Four. That game is set for Saturday at 8 p.m. at Fort Valley State University.