By Jeremy McDonald
It is hard to imagine looking at the 65-63 Lanier-South Salem final score that a few minutes earlier it was 53-41 in favor of the Longhorns.
At that point in the game, the Saxons were out of their rhythm from the first quarter where they scored 26 points and led Lanier 26-10 entering the second quarter.
Foul trouble had slowed South’s offense to 16 points over the span of the second, third and early part of the fourth quarter that had gotten the Saxons into this nightmarish situation.
But it also presented an excellent opportunity to react to some adversity.
“You just got to keep playing, you got to play through it,” said Emorej Lynk. “We came back. Cole (Hardy) got it going, It felt good, it showed that we aren’t going to quit. We’re going to keep battling.”
The Saxons dug deep, deep within themselves. Of the next 12 South Salem points, Hardy scored ten of them with Lynk scoring the other off a field goal to pull within five. Kieran Purett answered Sion James’ free throw split with making both of his with 2:18 left and the Saxons down 59-55.
A 14-6 swing as eight of South’s points coming from the free throw line in an 8-for-8 stretch.
“We just stayed in it, kept our heads in it. We just had to keep our heads up and keep working hard,” said Hardy. “It’s been a long weekend and a lot of games, but we just tried to finish good and keep our heads in it in that last fourth quarter.”
Hardy finished with 25 points in the game for the Saxons as they finished the Capitol City Classic against nationally-ranked Rancho Christian before finishing up with the Longhorns Monday night in the third-place, sixth-place game.
“It just shows that we can play with anybody. If we work together and play our hardest, there’s no one that can stop us and just having that mindset,” said Hardy of facing the two quality opponents.
South Salem found themselves down 31-28 at halftime against the Eagles Sunday before bouncing back Monday, leading Lanier 34-24 at halftime before the Longhorns outscored the Saxons 43-15 before South’s rally.
South had an answer to everything Lanier had. The Longhorns split at the line, Hardy went 2-for-2 at the line. Lanier gets a field goal, Nick Zuro turns the ‘And-One’. The Longhorns split again at the line and Hardy tied the game at 63 with 24.5 left after being fouled shooting a three.
Then the back-breaker.
After defending well against the Lanier offense, the Longhorn’s James found a window to lay-in the go-ahead and game-winning shot with 2.5 second left in the game to hand Lanier third and the Saxons sixth in the tournament.
James finished with 23 points in the game for the Georgia squad.
South will have a few days off before traveling to play Southridge Friday night at 7pm.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald