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Jackets punch ticket to state in triple-overtime thriller

    SAVANNAH — Southeast Bulloch Coach John Page knew his team was going to be in for a dog fight when it met Brantley County in the opening round of the Region 1-AAA tournament.
    Page was basing that observation on two regular season wins over the Herons by nine and five points, the 9-point win coming with Brantley star Derrick Bradshaw sidelined by injury.
    However, in no way did Page dream it would take three overtimes for his team to hold off the Herons to earn their first state tournament berth since 2001.
    The Yellow Jackets got a game winning basket from Preston Smith with 13 seconds remaining, and then had to watch two Heron shots fall off the rim before they could claim a 72-71 win Thursday night at Beach High School.
    The win puts SEB (17-9) into a semifinal game with Savannah High today at 5:30 p.m. at the new Beach gym.
    It was a tight game throughout with the Yellow Jackets holding a 25-22 halftime lead only to go stone cold in the third quarter when they could score but seven points as the Herons clawed their way back into it.
    “When you’re playing for stuff that’s worthwhile it should be hard,” Page said after his team’s hard-earned win. “This is a team that never says never. They think they can’t lose. The kids played with a lot of fortitude tonight.
    “Brantley County is a well-coached team that runs their sets well,” Page said. “They’re better than a sixth-seed.”
    It was 48-48 at the end of regulation, it was 54-54 after the first overtime and 63-63 at the end of the second.
    Smith, who had a game high 20 points, forced the second overtime when he got a steal and a layup with 26 seconds on the clock. Sophomore Markel Ming made it a three overtime game when, with the Jackets trailing 63-60, he calmly drilled a 3-pointer with 35 seconds on the clock.
    “We got some valuable minutes from him,” Page said of Ming. “He’s a sophomore without nerves. He just started playing a lot the last few weeks.”
    In the third extra period the Jackets were down 69-66, but Smith scored and Kaelin Jones hit two free throws before the Herons’ Colt Yawn scored to set up Smith’s heroics.
    Sheldon Hendrix had 14 points for SEB, and Jones had 12. Yawn had 17 for Brantley County, and Bradshaw added 16.