MACON — Five overtimes.
It took an incredible five extra periods for Mount de Sales and Bulloch Academy to settle their monumental "Elite Eight" battle Saturday in the GISA Class AAA boys basketball tournament at Tattnall Square Academy.
The Cavs hit a 3-point shot at the buzzer to take a hard-fought and emotionally draining 80-79 thriller in the quarterfinal game, which started at 4:30 p.m. and ended at 6:50 p.m. Although the most overtime periods ever played was 13, the BA-MDS battle might hold the title for the most overtime periods in GISA or even GHSA history.
"It was probably the greatest high school game every played," BA head coach Chandler Dennard said. "The kids played so hard and I am extremely proud of their effort."
The Gators held a 79-77 lead with two seconds left in the fifth, four-minute extra period. Mount de Sales got the inbound pass, raced down the court and called a timeout on the BA end of the court. On the inbounds, the Cavs hit the shot for the improbable win.
The loss ends Bulloch Academy's season at 23-7. Mount de Sales (17-9) advances to next week's "Final Four" at Georgia College and State University.
At the end of regulation, the score was tied at 52. In the third overtime, the Gators thought they had won.
With the score knoted at 70, Bulloch had the ball with 12 seconds left and maneuvered for a shot. The shot was errant and senior Hosea Jones grabbed the rebound. He went back up and banked the ball through the hoop. The Bulloch bench and fans erupted, thinking they had won the game but the basket was waived off by the officials, saying it had come after the horn sounded.
"We rushed the court, thinking it was over," Dennard said. "Everybody in the gym knew it was good. But one referee thought the shot came after the buzzer and waived it off."
The controversial call set up two more overtime periods.
"In a situation where our kids could have just quit or been upset at the referees, the guys rose to the occasion and played with class," Dennard said. "I am proudest of the way our kids played their hearts out to represent their school. When you think about it, that's what's its all about anyway. I have never been prouder of a team."
Senior Jaylen Evans led Bulloch with 22 points. Junior Ross Rainey scored 21 points. Senior John Cornett had 14 and junior Themba Twala added 10.
The Gators, the third seed from Region 4-AAA, came out of the gate strong and jumped out to a 16-12 lead after the first eight minutes against the Region 2-AAA champion.
In the second quarter, the Green and Gold kicked things into overdrive early, going on an 8-0 run for a 24-12 lead with five minutes left in the half. But the Cavaliers from Macon rallied during the remainder of the quarter, outscoring BA, 13-6, to cut the Gator lead to 30-25 at halftime.
Mount de Sales continued to chip away at the Gator advantage early in the third. The Cavs knotted the score at 30 with five minutes. MDS went on a 12-6 tear to take a 42-36 lead by the horn.
But the boys from Statesboro would not quit as they rallied back in the fourth.