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Spartans stunned at buzzer by Lions
Title hopes erased on last-second 3-pointer
West Hall’s Shunquez Stephens and Franklin County’s KeShaun Mayfield try to gain control of the ball Saturday during the 8-AAA region championship game at Chestatee High School. - photo by SARA GUEVARA | The Times

With one clutch shot, Franklin County’s Austin Farrow ended any hope the West Hall Spartans had about winning its first region title in boys basketball.

Trailing by two points, Farrow hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 1.9 seconds left to give Franklin County a 49-48 win over West Hall in the Region 8-AAA championship Saturday at Chestatee.

“He has all the confidence in the world,” said Franklin County coach Harry Marsh, whose program has appeared in six straight region championships, but only won two titles.

“We had a foul to give, but we didn’t get it called,” West Hall coach Warren Sellers said. “But that kid hit a big shot and you have to give him credit.”

West Hall’s luck has been just as bad in previous region titles, as the Spartans (23-5) lost for the third straight time in a region championship game. But this one will sting worse than the others.

In a back-and-forth final quarter, the Spartans took the lead with 27.9 seconds left when Jarquise Young stole the rebound from Franklin County’s Matt Scott, and found Shunquez Stephens underneath for an easy layup.

Stephens, who was named tournament MVP and finished with a game-high 25 points, was fouled on the shot and when his made free throw gave West Hall a 48-46 lead.

It looked like that would be enough, as Young’s tight defense on the ensuing possession forced Franklin County’s Keshaun Mayfield to step out of bounds and give the ball back to the Spartans.

But the Spartans were called for a travel on their ensuing possession that gave the ball back to the Lions and set up the dramatic finish.

“We had too many turnovers,” said Sellers, whose team is likely to play Shaw in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs next Saturday. “We knew it was going to be this type of game.”

Sellers also knew he’d get the type of performance he received from Stephens, who made a 3-pointer at the end of the second quarter to send West Hall to intermission railing by six.

“He stepped up big,” Sellers said. “That’s why he’s this region’s Player of the Year.”

Stephens will most likely battle Mayfield for that honor, and the senior stated his case Saturday with 16 points. Scott added 15 points for Franklin County, which won its 16th straight game.

The Spartans had won 16 of their last 17, and Sellers hopes their latest loss won’t carry over to the playoffs.

“We gotta put this thing behind us,” he said. “We can’t let this thing drag into our first playoff game.”

GAINESVILLE BOYS 54, MONROE AREA 51: A.J. Johnson’s breakaway dunk with 40 seconds left in the game put an emphatic seal on the Red Elephants’ come-from-behind win Saturday in the third-place game of the Region 8-AAA tournament.

Trailing 11-0 midway through the first quarter, Gainesville (19-8) kept chipping away at Monroe Area’s lead, and a Ke’Odric Sadler layup with 3:30 left in the third gave the Red Elephants their first lead of the game.

Gainesville, which was led by Quan Holcomb’s 12 points, led by as many as seven with six minutes left to play, but the Purple Hurricanes (20-9) went on a 7-0 run to tie the game with 4:50 remaining.

Freshman Deshaun Watson, who scored seven points, gave Gainesville the lead for good with a layup with 2:15 remaining. Gainesville plays the loser of the Region 6-AAA championship game between Carrollton and
Troup in the first round of the Class AAA state tournament.

Monroe Area, which was led by Ken Jackson’s 25 points, will play the winner of the Region 6-AAA championship in the first round.

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