MONTGOMERY – Sylacauga shooting guard Darian Garrett only scored 11 points in the Aggies’ 51-50 win over Booker T. Washington in a Class 5A Central Regional basketball tournament semifinal at the Dunn-Oliver Acadome on Friday.
But his buzzer-beating deep 3 that sent a flock of Golden Eagles fans home disappointed proved to be the difference-maker.
“We somehow survived thanks to a good call by (assistant coach Joel Jones),” Aggies head coach Will Copeland said. “We have a play called ‘City.’ We ran ‘City’ and we ran it to perfection. (Darian) got an open look. I wanted to throw it to the rim, but Coach Jones wanted to run ‘City’ and I called ‘City’ … Darian stepped up, clutched up and made the shot.”
Garrett said several emotions came to mind as he watched his shot fall as his team’s season hung in the balance.
“It was excitement,” he said. “At first, I was kind of scared because I’m a senior and it would be my last game playing with Sylacauga. So when I shot it, I shot it with confidence.”
He added the shot would be the top shot among his many with the Aggies.
“I’ve never shot that deep before,” Garrett said. “When I shot it, I knew it was going in because I had told my teammates I wanted the ball and they believed in me. They gave me the ball, so I just shot it.”
Booker T. Washington grabbed a 50-48 lead on a jumper by senior Joe Phillips, who finished with 29 points. The Golden Eagles blocked a 3-point attempt by Malik Crawford, and though the clock showed no time remaining with fans in purple and gold reveling in what they believed to be a victory, officials put six-tenths of a second back on the clock, giving the Aggies one chance of survival.
“Things we normally do, we didn’t do today,” Copeland. “We didn’t make shots. We got it inside and we couldn’t score inside … I don’t know how many free throws we missed, but we didn’t make free throws. This was probably the worst game we played all year.
“We struggled stopping Phillips, especially at the end. We called timeout and said we have to pinch down on him. He’s one-on-four at the end and scores.”
The Golden Eagles entered the final quarter with a 37-36 lead, but a quartet of fouls on Booker T. Washington allowed the Aggies to spring ahead 41-37.
“We did a good job in that little stretch getting on the offensive glass, we just had a hard time finishing at the rim,” Copeland said. “It was not because there should be anybody inside that should be intimidating us. We just couldn’t finish shots tonight for whatever reason. We played a bad basketball game but came through there at the end.”
Booker T. Washington used a 9-5 spurt to tie the game at 46-all with 4:58 to play.
Dakari Parker put the Golden Eagles in front 47-46 with a shot from the charity stripe, but the Aggies answered with a pair of free throws from Erron Bryant to reclaim the lead. Bryant finished with 16 points.
Phillips knotted the game at 48-all with 1:39 remaining by making one of his two attempts from the free-throw line.
The Aggies fell behind 11-8 after the first stanza, but Crawford delivered seven of his 19 points in the second period to put Sylacauga up 26-24 at halftime.
Sylacauga will face the winner of Calera/Central Tuscaloosa in the Elite Eight on Wednesday for the region championship at 5:45 p.m.