Ja’Darius Smith drilled a three-pointer with 5.4 seconds left in overtime to lift Bulloch Academy over Bethesda 44-43 Thursday in a GISA Region 4-AAA thriller.
The BA senior sharpshooter had missed a three-point shot at the buzzer in regulation to send the game into the extra four-minute period. But when he got his second chance in the overtime, he went back to the exact same spot on the floor; two steps behind the arch on the right wing.
With the Gators down 43-41 and the clock running down, Smith came off a pick and took the pass on the right perimeter. He quickly set up, eyed the basket and sent the ball on its way. It flew straight and true through the metal hoop and zipped the net, sending the home crowd into screams of joy.
After the horn sounded, the members of the BA student section mobbed Smith in celebration. He scored 12 on the night but his last three were historic for the win was the first time in recent history that the Gators have beaten the Blazers on the hardwood.
With the score tied 36-36 at the end of regulation, Bulloch (9-7, 2-0) took a 39-36 lead when junior Smith Reeves canned an off-balance jumper and then hit the ensuing free-throw. Reeves led the Gators with 14 points.
The Blazers (4-12, 0-2) stayed close with a basket of their own and a tense one-point game was the result. With a 41-38 lead and 1:41 left, BA swung the ball around the perimeter to cut time off the clock.
Cat-quick Malik Davis batted a pass down, got control of the ball and was fouled while pushing up a layup with 1:06 left. He missed the free throw but got his own rebound and hit a short jumper for a 42-41 Bethesda lead.
The Blazers controlled the ball with under a minute to go and had a chance to put the game away. But Zach Askew missed two free throws with 28.6 left and Kearston Berksteiner hit one of two with 14.9 remaining for the 43-41 lead.
The Gators had their share of free-throw woes, hitting just 15-of-31 on the night.
Centers Hunter Perry (Bulloch) and Kalil Abdullah (Bethesda) highlighted the defensive battle with their epic war in the paint. Abdullah netted 10 points while Perry had seven.
Bulloch continues region play today, hosting Westminster of Augusta.