LOGANVILLE — A rally at the end of regulation and steady play in overtime Saturday means McEachern boys basketball coach Mike Thompson gets another game, and state-title favorite Grayson’s season is done.
The visiting Indians knocked off the Rams 57-56 in a second round Class AAAAAAA tournament game that had the feel of one much deeper in the postseason. McEachern (23-4) won its eighth straight and gave Thompson, who is retiring after the season, at least one more game, a quarterfinal next week at Collins Hill.
“That was a pretty good basketball game, it’s a shame that it was a second-round game,” Thompson said. “That was like a semifinal or something. It would have been a great state championship game.”
The two teams met in last year’s semifinals at Buford, and back in late December at Wheeler’s Champions Classic, both games won by Grayson (22-4). But the Indians broke that streak Saturday and handed Grayson its first loss since Dec. 22, snapping the Rams’ 14-game winning streak.
Grayson was in good shape late in regulation with a 45-41 lead with under a minute left. It had stifled McEachern, which finally snapped a scoring drought of more than four minutes when Chance Moore’s steal led to a layup with Mike Jacobs with 51 seconds left. Jacobs was fouled on the play, and missed the ensuing free throw, but the scramble for the rebound went out of bounds to McEachern. That set up a drive to the basket moments later by Moore (20 points), who was fouled with 30 seconds left. He made both free throws to tie the score at 45.
Grayson held for one final shot, but McEachern’s tight defense forced a deep, flailing 3-pointer off a spin by the Rams’ Tyrese Elliot that bounced off the front rim as time expired.
“We knew this is how the game was going to go,” Grayson coach Geoffrey Pierce said. “The first time we played them was pretty much the same thing. We’ve got to do a better job closing that game out. We were up four with like a minute left or something like that, some bad turnovers and gave up a couple of offensive rebounds. We’ve just got to do a better job closing things out.”
In overtime, Robert Cowherd’s three-point play gave Grayson a 50-49 lead with 1:37 left. On the next possession, the Indians’ Cam McDowell (19 points, 10 rebounds) got a wide-open dunk off an inbounds play and the Rams never recovered.
They missed shots on back-to-back trips and McEachern put the game away at the line, making its first eight in going 10 of 12 from the line in the extra period. Grayson made a pair of 3-pointers in the final six seconds to tighten the final margin.
“We didn’t do everything right, but we made a lot of good decisions and made some big shots,” Thompson said. “What I thought we did better than anything was pursue the ball on rebounds. We outrebounded a team we probably shouldn’t have outrebounded. We got a lot of loose balls. … We feel like we played great defense. It barely got to the 50s, that’s pretty strong with two teams like that.”
McEachern had a 33-30 edge on the boards, which was a big factor in building a 17-10 lead after a quarter. Grayson scored the first eight points of the second quarter and allowed only four points during that quarter. The Indians didn’t score in the second until McDowell’s two free throws with 1:52 left.
“Probably the biggest part of that game was we score four points on them (in the second quarter) and we’re still up one at halftime,” Thompson said. “That’s tough defense. Defensively, we played good in the second quarter.”
After the half, neither team led by more than four points until deep in OT when the Indians took a 56-50 lead.
Grayson was led by Ian Schieffelin (14 points, 15 rebounds, two steals, two blocks, two assists), Chauncey Wiggins (13 points, seven rebounds), Cowherd (12 points) and Elliot (nine points).
“I’m proud of the guys,” Pierce said. “We’ll sit back and look at it in its entirety. We had to replace a lot from last year and we didn’t really have a chance to get to work as a team until late October. It was good to see them come together and get better as the season progressed for sure. I’m proud of them.
“My seniors, all three of them are four-year guys. We told them in the locker room the measure of the job you’ve done is did you leave the program in better shape than when you first got here and they did that. We’re disappointed we didn’t win the state championship of course. I think everybody got better as players along the way, the coaches got better. We’re just going to have to try to regroup and do it again next year.”