By Tony Abati
Special to The Messenger
MURFREESBORO — Lake County needed a miracle, and Derrick Swift answered the call as the Falcons continued their quest to defend their state title with an improbable 79-77 overtime victory over Booker T. Washington Thursday at Murphy Center.
With five seconds left and Lake County trailing by three points, Swift grabbed a defensive rebound off Martavious Newby’s missed free throw, dribbled through three Warrior defenders and heaved up a prayer from the opposite free throw line. Swift’s shot sailed across the court and swished through the net as the red light came on to send the game to overtime.
“I thought I missed it at first,” Swift said. “And then the next thing I knew everyone was coming at me. I want to thank God and my teammates for not giving up in the last few minutes of regulation. I don’t really know what else to say about it; I’m speechless. I’ve never been in a game like that.”
Head coach Dawn Barger said it wasn’t quite drawn up, but the Falcons have worked on plays like that in practice.
“I’m always talking to them about time and knowing how many dribbles per second and stuff,” she said. “I knew with five seconds left we could get two dribbles and then a shot. We work on it sometimes in practice. We’ll put four or five seconds on the clock and work on half court shots. And I’m so glad we do because it paid off. I’m not saying I drew it up, but we do work on it. I don’t think we’ve hit one all year, but I’m glad the one we did was out there today.”
The Warriors had a chance to ice the game with five seconds left. Newby was fouled on a defensive rebound and had two free throws with the three point lead. But both shots rimmed out, giving Swift the opportunity for the prayer.
Momentum entering the extra period switched toward Lake County. Stetson Swift made the first bucket to put the Falcons up by two. After the Warriors re-tied the score at 69, Lake County scored six straight points to go up, 75-69, and would not trail again.
The game was a seesaw battle throughout, featuring 22 lead changes and 16 ties. The largest lead by either team was only six.
After one quarter, the game was tied and Khalill Spencer had yet to catch fire, missing his first three treys of the game. But he and Newby warmed up in the second, as they finished the first half with 11 and 12 points, respectively. It wasn’t enough, though, as the Falcons had the lead at the break, 29-26.
Lake County was still up 45-42 entering the fourth quarter and eventually pushed that lead out to six at 52-46 with 5:51 left. But BTW was able to come back and take its own five-point lead at 65-60 with 38 seconds left in regulation. From that point, the Falcons went on a 7-2 run, capped by Swift’s shot, to go into overtime.
The Falcons showed perseverance, as they played the entire four-minute extra period without Devon Jones and Rafael Tyler.
The Falcons are scheduled to play Perry County at 5 p.m. today in the state semifinals.
Published in The Messenger 3.16.12