Things were looking bleak for Shad Dabney and Riverside Military Academy basketball team late in its second-round playoff contest against Walker Wednesday night, when Dabney looked over at his mom, Shannon, on the sidelines.
The Eagles were trailing by 12 points at the midpoint of the fourth quarter. Dabney himself had scored just two points all game, and he was one foul away from being finished. But none of that mattered to Dabney’s mother.
“My mom looked at me and said ‘You got to go.’”
And so, Dabney went.
He scored 15 of the team’s 17 points in the final two minutes of the game, willing the Eagles back from the brink of elimination and knocking down the game-winner with two seconds to play to give Riverside Military a 64-63 win.
The victory sends the Eagles to the Class A-private state quarterfinals for the first time in program history.
“We talked before the game, this is our time,” Riverside Military coach Marvin Latham said. “Five years ago, that gym doesn’t look the same. We don’t have enough uniforms. We didn’t have enough balls. But we had a plan, and we stuck with it, and we’re in the Elite Eight.”
The two teams played tight for the first three quarters of the game before Walker appeared to begin running away with it to start the fourth.
The Wolverines outscored the Eagles 12-4 over the first five minutes of the frame to take their largest lead of the game with three minutes remaining. Latham called a timeout and gathered his team for one last inspirational message.
“I just told them, ‘Do you believe?’” he said. “’Do you believe in each other? Because that’s all we have at that point. You don’t have anybody else but each other. Lean on each other. Go make plays and play your heart out. Win, lose or draw, let’s go play.’”
Dabney scored the first basket of his run with a little under two minutes to go — a 3-point play that he converted to get the Eagles back within seven points of the lead. Then he made four straight free throws and hit a shot from close range to close the deficit to four points.
On the ensuing Walker possession, Khalid Duke grabbed a steal and passed it to Dabney, who went under the rim and banked in a left-handed reverse layup to make a 2-point game. Orlando Stevens went 1-of-2 from the line a few seconds later to cut Walker’s lead to 1 point. Wolverines guard Omar Cooper missed a pair of free throws following an immediate Eagles foul, giving Riverside Military a shot to win it with 10 seconds left.
Dabney grabbed the inbound, dribbled straight down the right side of the key and knocked down a mid-range shot with two seconds left to give Riverside Military its first lead since early in the third quarter.
“I was just feeling it,” he said. “It was just my quarter. I had the hot hand. I did what I had to do.”
As the Riverside Military student section stormed the court, lifting Dabney up in triumphant celebration, one simple thought was going through his head.
“I did it,” he said. “Thank you lord, I did it.”
Then, that thought was replaced by a new one.
With the win, Riverside Military will face the Mount Pisgah/Eagles Landing Christian Academy winner next week.