CLAXTON — An early season non-region matchup turned into a tooth-and-nail struggle as Claxton outlasted Southeast Bulloch in double-overtime by a count of 77-71 Saturday evening in the Tiger’s Den.
“This was definitely an exciting one for us,” Claxton coach Eric Bluestein said. “We only graduated a couple of guys last season, but we’re still younger than we were. This was a big test for us.”
Trailing 67-64 in the second overtime, Kyle Vliet slashed to the basket to get the Tigers (1-2) within a point. Vliet was fouled and missed his free throw, but got his own rebound and nailed the put-back for a 68-67 lead. Vliet connected on another runner on Claxton’s next possession and hit two more free throws down the stretch to kee Claxton in front.
“The ball kept coming to me,” Vliet said. “I just had to go with it. My teammates kept getting me open shots and I made the shots when I had to.”
Sheldon Hendrix (21 points) hit a pair of 3s in the opening minute of play to give the Yellow Jackets a quick lead, but the Tigers bounced back and held a slim margin for much of the night.
Cornelius Taylor led all scorers with 25 points and hit a pair of big 3s midway through the fourth quarter before SEB charged back. Lamont Ballard (11 points) got the Jackets within two points on a jumper with just over a minute to play, then drained a layup with 27.1 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime with the teams tied at 53-53.
Taylor hit a pair of free throws with 56.3 seconds remaining in the first overtime, but Ballard saved the Jackets again — this time with a put-back layup to knot the game at 60-60 after the first overtime period.
Claxton girls claim another win
The Lady Tigers advanced all the way to the Class A quarterfinals last season and climbed above the .500 mark for this year as the Lady Tigers notched a 51-42 victory over Southeast Bulloch Saturday night.
Claxton (3-2) continued its well-balanced look as Devonna Brewton (13 points) Keri Brown (12) and Taylor Fireash (10) all turned in double-digit performances.
“We knew that we were in for a tough game”, CHS coach Laura Aziz said. “We aren’t incredibly deep and this was the second night in a row where we faced a team that wanted to run up and down the court. I’m glad that we were able to execute well and keep running our game.”
Southeast Bulloch got strong efforts from Jasmine Roberts (23 points) and Philicia Batton (10), but Claxton maintained a lead throughout the contest, with a pair of 3’s by Brewton and another by Jazmine Price (six points) allowed the Tigers to pull away in the third quarter.
“(SEB) is a strong team that gave us a tough test,” Aziz said. “It’s a little tough early in the season. You’ve got people getting excited with football and the holiday breaks. But we’re trying to get into a groove. Hopefully we can keep up the way we’ve played the last couple of nights as we move forward.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.