PEACHTREE CITY — Gainesville High’s boys basketball team’s season came to a close Saturday night with an 87-84 loss to McIntosh High in the second round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs in Peachtree City.
For the Red Elephant (21-6) faithful who made the trip to watch the game, there’s no doubt that a controversial end to the game will hang around in their minds for a while.
With the game tied at 84, there were 5.2 seconds on the clock and McIntosh (28-2) was throwing the ball in under its own basket.
The Chiefs inbounds pass took one bounce into the hands of an incoming Chase Walter, who went up and dunked the ball. The dunk gave McIntosh a two-point lead, but there was a foul called on the play.
The controversy comes in the clock. The clock continued to run and was stopped with 1.1 seconds left.
“There should have been 3 ½ seconds left, but there wasn’t and it is what it is,” said Gainesville coach Benjie Wood.
Wood, and many in the stands wearing red, tried to make the case for more time, but the referees left the clock as is.
“Honestly, at that point, I’m thinking if he makes the free throw, I’m going to hit a 3. If he misses it, I’m going to hit a layup,” said Gainesville senior D’Marcus Simonds (34 points). “I thought the correct amount of time was going to be on the clock, which it wasn’t, but oh well. It happened and they won.”
Walter made the free throw and sent his team through to the quarterfinals to play Riverwood in Columbus next week.
Heading into the final quarter, the teams were tied at 63 after Messiah Dorsey (7 points) caught a pass from Bailey Minor (7 points) and laid the ball through the hoop as time expired in the third.
The Chiefs led the game early in the first quarter, but once the Red Elephants took the lead, they held on tight.
Gainesville led 19-12 after the opening period and 46-37 at halftime.
McIntosh caught back up in the third quarter with 1:20 remaining as Jordan Lyons hit a deep 3 to tie the game up at 58. Seconds later, a steal and dunk from Will Washington (33 points) put the Chiefs back ahead for the first time since the early minutes of the game.
Throughout the contest, Gainesville’s Simonds, a Georgia State signee, and McIntosh’s Washington put on a show.
“It’s personal. We’ve been friends for a minute,” Washington said of the back and forth with Simonds. “We just knew. We knew we had to put our teams on our backs and go do what we do.”
Washington finished the first half with 13 points, edging Simonds who had 11.
After the halftime break, the McIntosh senior unleashed for 15 points in the third. Big Red’s senior posted 10 in the quarter.
“We both just wanted to win, so I guess it played out that way,” Simonds said. “He played well. His whole team played well.”
Simonds was the only Red Elephant to make it into double digits as seven different Gainesville players put points on the board in the game.
KJ Buffen, Tae Turner and Harry Oliver each had eight. Lyons finished the game with 22 points for McIntosh.
Forward Dishon Lowery had 13 and guard Isaac Kellum posted 12 for the Chiefs.
Wood said he wasn’t concerned with how this season and this game will translate for the future.
“We expect to be competing for championships every year,” Wood said. “Obviously we didn’t win it, but we expect to be in the hunt. This is my third year here at Gainesville and we’ve gotten better each year. We just want to continue to do things the right way and hopefully we keep getting better.”
Simonds isn’t keeping his high expectations any secret for the future of his teammates who will be coming back for more next season.
“They’ll be great, especially with KJ coming back and Jabo (Xavier Bledson) and everyone else coming back,” Simonds said. “They’ll be a great team. They’ll learn from this.”