Potter’s attempt was the Yellow Jackets’ last-ditch effort at mounting one of the biggest comebacks in their history. Sprayberry trailed by 47-15 early in the third quarter, after Pope’s Sam Yarborough converted a three-point play with 7:44 left in the third period.
Sprayberry then outscored Pope 17-10 in the third quarter to pull to within 54-32, and it continued its torrid pace in the fourth with a 29-9 margin that brought the crowd into a frenzy.
Pope (13-7, 7-3) held a 61-44 lead with 3:57 left, but Nkem Ojeh’s putback and Armel Potter’s 3-pointer set Sprayberry (13-9, 6-5) on a 15-0 run that left the Yellow Jackets trailing 61-59 with 1 minute remaining.
Garrick DeBowles missed the front end of a 1-and-1 for Pope, but Sprayberry lost the rebound out of bounds, giving possession back to the Greyhounds.
After a timeout, Eli Gruber, who scored 15 first-half points off five 3-pointers and finished with 21 points and six 3s, made the first of two free throws with 34 seconds left for a three-point Pope advantage.
Ojeh, who had 10 points and 12 rebounds, collected the missed free throw, and Gruber rebounded Torrey Richardson’s failed 3-point attempt at the other end to give possession back to Pope.
But as it had for all of the second half, Sprayberry’s full-court pressure defense proved to be the reason behind the Yellow Jackets’ comeback. Following Gruber’s rebound, Richardson stole the ball and converted a layup with 17 seconds left, leaving Pope clinging to a 62-61 margin.
Richardson finished the night with 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists,
After timeouts called by each team, Sprayberry’s Jontae Williams was called for a foul going for a steal, and Gruber made the second of his two free throws for a 63-61 Pope advantage with 5.6 seconds left.
Pope used two of its remaining three fouls before the bonus to affect Sprayberry’s inbound passing, resulting in Potter’s desperation heave late in the game. Time ran out as players chased the ball down for the final rebound.
Yarborough finished with 11 points for Pope, while DeBowles had 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals. Chase Hutchins totaled 11 points, five rebounds and three assists.
“The game is 32 minutes and, thankfully, not 33 minutes, because I don’t know if we’d have won that game if it was 33 minutes,” Pope coach Pat Abney said. “It was crazy to be up 32 points and you almost lose it. Every minute counted, and ultimately every possession counted, and the objective was accomplished. We got the win.
“Our goal is to win the subregion, and we still have a chance to do that. This was much-needed, to win against a very good team in a close game, because we’ve lost a lot of close games. It was good to pull one out.”
Pope’s 2-3 zone defense in the first half stymied Sprayberry’s offense, which couldn’t get shots to fall. The Greyhounds were red-hot on the other end of the court, racing out to a 17-6 first-quarter lead and outscoring the Yellow Jackets 27-9 in the second period, including an 11-2 run over the final 3 minutes of the half.
Pope was 8-for-8 from the free-throw line and connected on six 3s in the first half. The Greyhounds finished going 14-for-21 from the line and totaled seven 3s.
“First half, we shot lights-out,” Abney said. “Gruber got hot for us, like he’s capable of doing. Then, I thought (Sprayberry) had a lot more motion and emotion in their offense in the second half. We won the game in the first half, and they almost won the game in the second half.”
Potter scored 15 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter to lead Sprayberry. He made five 3-pointers overall, including three in the fourth. Dayvion Rogers had seven points.
“We’re not satisfied with the outcome, but certainly I’m proud, and our fans are proud, to be down that much and not quit and have a chance to win the game at the end,” Sprayberry coach Marc Carver said. “But we have to come with that effort for four quarters not just two.”
Pope 66, Sprayberry 60: The Lady Greyhounds held a 60-55 lead with 1 minute remaining in the game and held on for the Region 7AAAAA (B) win at the Hound Pound.
Andrea Brown scored a game-high 27 points to lead Pope (15-5, 7-3). She had 17 points in the second half and scored 11 in the fourth quarter. Brown was also 7-of-8 from the free-throw line in the final frame.
Kierra Henry totaled 13 of her 23 points in the second half. She had 10 in the third period.
Neena Carter contributed 12 of her 18 points in the second half for Sprayberry (16-6, 6-5), which trailed 24-18 at the end of the first period, but pulled to within 30-29 at halftime. Pope, however, outscored the Lady Yellow Jackets 17-9 in the third to take a 47-38 margin entering the fourth.
Kiana Griffin also had 18 points for Sprayberry, while Jada Richardson drained three 3-pointers and finished with 11. Dyeisha Brown had eight points.