SAVANNAH — Lamont Ballard looked like the coolest person in the gym. And, as it turned out he was.
Ballard was fouled with 1.6 seconds to play and his Southeast Bulloch team trailing Beach by one point. The Yellow Jacket senior didn’t flinch as he went to the line and calmly made a pair of free throws to give SEB a much needed 53-52 win Tuesday night at the Beach gym.
Jacket Coach John Page acknowledged the circumstances under which Ballard was fouled was not what was drawn up in a timeout called with 11 seconds on the clock following a basket by the Bulldogs’ Adrian Carr.
Coming out of the break it was obvious SEB wanted Markel Ming to take the final shot.
Ming, who had a game high 18 points, drove the lane and found himself going to one knee while surrounded by Bulldogs. Somehow Ming got the ball to Ballard who was fouled as he attempted to get off a shot.
“Always,” a relieved Page said with a chuckle when asked if that was the way he had drawn up the play. “When in doubt give it to the fullback.
“We stumbled and fumbled around,” Page said, “but fortunately he (Ming) had sense enough to get rid of the ball.
“We’re not complaining. It was a win…the kids played hard and never gave up.”
Ballard finished with seven points, all in the fourth quarter, as he was 7-for-8 at the foul line. Caleb Carter had nine points and SEB was deadly at the line in the fourth quarter, making 10 of 12 attempts.
The Region 1B-AAA win was huge for the Yellow Jackets (10-18, 4-8) who are fighting Islands High School for fourth-place in the region race. Both are 4-8 with the Sharks playing Jenkins and Dodge County in their final two games while SEB finishes regular season play at Toombs County.
“If we finish tied with them we’ll be fourth on the tie-breaker,” Page said whose team beat Islands, 64-59, in an earlier meeting.
In the girls game Beach beat the Yellow Jackets, 67-13, as it jumped out to a 20-2 first quarter lead and never looked back. Destiny Burke scored 9 points for Southeast Bulloch while Jurnee Cotton and Cole Robertson had two each.
The boys game was nip-and-tuck from the beginning with neither team being able to gain an advantage until midway through the fourth quarter when Beach was able to move out to a five point lead at 45-40.
However, the Yellow Jackets, who led 20-18 at the half and trailed 34-32 after three quarters, went on an 8-0 run to lead 48-45 following a dazzling layup in traffic from Ming who scored 12 points in the decisive fourth.
Beach responded with five quick points, but the Yellow Jackets refused to fold as Ming converted a three-point play for a 51-50 lead that appeared to be lost when Carr scored.
Ballard, however, was equal to the task, and that was good news for a Yellow Jacket team that Page said is much better than it was a month ago.