Saturday May 25th, 2024 5:01AM

Boys basketball playoffs: Habersham Central rallies to win over GHS; to play for Region 8-6A title

By Bo Wilson Sports Editor

SNELLVILLE, Ga. — If you were expecting anything but a down-to-the-wire battle between Habersham Central and Gainesville in the Region 8-6A semifinals on Thursday, then you came to the wrong game. 

Just as the two regular-season meetings, which the two split — Habersham won at home by one, and Gainesville won by 7 at home — it came down to the wire by way of a Raider rally. 

It looked as if Gainesville was going to stroll to the win, up 10 points, 44-34, with 5 minutes left. 

But that didn’t happen. Habersham Central outpaced Gainesville 15-2 to rally to a 49-46 win at Shiloh High School. 

The win clinched the Raiders a spot in the championship game. They’ll play top-seed Shiloh at 8:30 p.m. on Friday in Snellville. Gainesville will get Lanier in the consolation game also at Shiloh. Game time is 5:30 p.m.

“It's just one of those games where they know each other so well, it's gonna be a close matchup,” Habersham Central coach Tommy Yancey said. “Both teams are physical … we can play pretty similar, just with kind of different X's and O's. But we're looking to do the same thing. So, it just turns into a rock fight most nights. We were just throwing rocks at each other.”

Indeed, they were, as the first half was a slow rock fight, ending with the Raiders up by one point, 23-20. 

The second half could have started one of two ways — one team running out to a double-digit lead or a repeat of the first half. 

Well, Gainesville slowly built a double-digit lead behind Ellis Pitts, who scored 11 points, and Xavier Griffin, who finished with a team-high 12 points, in the third quarter. The two combined for 11 of the 18 third-quarter points while outscoring Habersham 18-7 to take a 40-30 lead at the end of the quarter. 

The fourth quarter started slow for both teams; 6-foot-8 big man Josiah McCurry, who finished with a game-high 20 points, swished two foul shots in the first 30 seconds. 

Gainesville followed with a bucket from Griffin, McCurry answered with a deuce of his own on the following trip, and Gainesville’s Brandon Nelson nailed a jumper to push Big Red to their second 10-point lead of the game, 44-34. Nelson chipped in 11 points on the night. 

Then, it all started to unravel for Gainesville. 

Caden Garrison started the Raiders 15-2 run to the lead with a 3-pointer from the left wing with 4:10 left. It was one of two 3s down the stretch for the junior guard. Garrison tossed in a desperation 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to tie the game, 45-45, with 1:18 remaining. 

Enzo Combs, who finished with 18 points, was the catalyst in the final 5 minutes for the Raiders. The junior guard hit seven fourth-quarter points in the final 5 minutes, including the go-ahead bucket with 38 seconds remaining to give the Raiders a 47-45 lead. He also hit two foul shots with 12.6 seconds left for a 49-45 advantage. 

“Enzo had a bunch of big shots,” Yancey said. “I don’t think you win a region tournament if you don’t make a bunch of big shots down the stretch. It’s just some you gotta do, and thankfully, for us tonight, our kids made some big plays.” 

Habersham Central now turns its attention to No. 1 seed Shiloh, a team they beat earlier this season at Shiloh.

Yancey said they’re going to treat it just like a regular game. 

“I don't think Habersham has ever won a region championship,” he said. “So it's a big one for the community, but we're going to come down here and try to play it as much like a regular game as we can and try to see what we can do.”

 

  • Associated Categories: Sports, High School Sports
  • Associated Tags: High school basketball, Gainesville boys basketball, habersham central boys basketball, prep basketball
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