The victory — South Cobb’s second buzzer-beater of the tournament following Saturday’s halfcourt shot against Kennesaw Mountain — sent the Eagles (9-19) into tonight’s championship game, where they will face top-seeded Pebblebrook at 8:30 p.m. It also guaranteed South Cobb the chance to host a first-round game in the state playoffs.
Hillgrove (19-7) will play Campbell in the third-place game at 5:30 p.m.
Hillgrove’s Kyle Castlin, who had a game-high 25 points and 13 rebounds, made two free throws with 28 seconds left to knot the contest at 53-all. The Hawks called a timeout, but it was South Cobb — and Barnes — who came up with the play of the game.
The Eagles successfully inbound the ball and Barnes took control. He went 1-on-1 with his defender and never gave up the ball, dribbling around to maintain possession. Barnes went into action with about 9 seconds remaining and eventually took the shot with 4 seconds on the clock. His field goal found nothing but the bottom of the net, sending the South Cobb faithful into a frenzy, all the while stunning Hillgrove’s fans.
“I had no doubt it was going in once it left my hand,” said Barnes, who finished with eight points and five assists. “Coach called an (isolation play) for me at the end with 4 seconds left, and I did what I had to do.
“This win is big. (Hillgrove) beat us twice during the regular season by at least 10 points both times, but we beat them when it counted. This win means everything.”
South Cobb led 52-46 with 1:40 remaining, but instead of running out the clock hoping for a foul, the Eagles played aggressively and kept taking shots.
The plan nearly backfired.
“I wanted the guys to finish the game, no matter what,” South Cobb coach Gregory Moultrie said. “It was a gamble. There was a 50-50 chance we’d win. It was like the Georgia Lottery — you can’t win unless you play.”
Castlin scored Hillgrove’s final seven points during a 1-minute span, and Josh Holliday made one of two free throws with 36 seconds remaining for a 53-51 South Cobb margin.
The Eagles led the majority of the game. Jourdan Julian’s 3-pointer gave Hillgrove its only lead — 46-45 — with 3 minutes remaining.
Keith Ray, who was held scoreless, collected his fourth foul when he hit Barnes driving to the basket. Ray was also called for a technical foul following the play, and South Cobb went on a 7-0 run with him on the bench, resulting in a 52-46 margin.
“Brandon’s becoming a point guard,” Moultrie said. “He’s a transfer from Mount Paran Christian, where he was a 2-guard. We want him to be a 1 here, so I give him the keys to drive the Ferrari. He can make plays, and I have the confidence in him to do so.”
B.J. Brown had 17 points for Hillgrove, which made 14 of 22 free throws.
Aaryon Davis chipped in 10 points for South Cobb, which was 9-of-16 from the line. Wesley Ingram added 12.