SUWANEE - Peachtree Ridge's Bryen Pyles headed straight to the Lions' student section after Saturday's first round playoff game to
And the junior had good reason to.
Pyles hit a 3-pointer at the end of regulation to force overtime where Peachtree Ridge cruised past Milton for a 57-53 win and a berth to the second round of the Class AAAAA state basketball tournament.
The Lions will play Parkview, which beat Etowah 75-58, on Friday at the Macon Centreplex at 5:30 p.m. in the second round.
After trailing since the first quarter, Peachtree Ridge mounted a comeback in the fourth and after Pyles' 3 the Lions never trailed again.
"If he doesn't make that shot, we don't go to overtime," Peachtree Ridge coach Gerald Arnold said. "We have confidence in three guys to take that shot and they gave him a look and he hit it.
Said Pyles: "I wanted to get an open shot. Cameron (Heyward) set a good pick and I just let it go. I just had an open look and took it."
In overtime Peachtree Ridge (24-3) got four points each from Zach Graham and Kevin Anderson to seal the win.
"I think everyone stepped up and we played as a team," said Graham, who finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds. "When we do that we win games."
Pyles, Heyward and Sidney Haynes all finished with eight points each. It was the second meeting between the two teams this season with Milton winning the first game 56-55 in the semifinals of the Deep South Classic. Since then Peachtree Ridge had won 13 of its last 14 games, including a win over No. 1 Norcross for the Region 7-AAAAA title. But the Lions didn't look like a region champ for the first three quarters of Saturday's game.
Peachtree Ridge led briefly in the first quarter, but in the second Milton (17-9) used a 10-0 run to take control of the game. The Lions were held to just two field goals in the period at trailed 25-14 at halftime.
In the third, things only go worse. Haynes was whistled with a technical foul and Connor Nolte's layup gave Milton a 16-point lead, its largest of the game, with 1:15 left in the third. It looked like the Lions were going to get blown out of their own gym, but then they turned up the defensive pressure.
"We just came out a little rusty," Graham said. "When we play defense, we play better basketball."
Both teams combined for nine fouls in the first half, but in the second half there were 27 fouls whistled and 41 in the entire game. Milton converted 14 of 26 free throws, while Peachtree Ridge hit 19 of 35.
Peachtree Ridge benefited from several calls in the fourth, hitting 7 of 14 free throws. Anderson and Haynes were a perfect 4-for-4 in the period and Anderson's 3 with 4:31 left in the game made it a one possession game for the first time since the first quarter. Anderson was the Lions' leading scorer with 16 points.
Graham hit a layup with 25 seconds left to pull Peachtree Ridge within one, but Nolte came back with two free throws to give Milton a 47-44 lead with 17 seconds remaining. On the ensuing possession, Pyles came down the court to hit the game-tying 3 to force overtime.
The Lions scored more points in the fourth quarter (25) than they did the three previous quarters combined (22).
Nolte, who was Milton's leading scorer with 20 points, was whistled with his fifth foul with 2:39 left in overtime and with the Eagles' biggest threat on the bench, Peachtree Ridge had the game in hand.
Tony Smith was the Eagles' other leading scorer with 15 points.
"That was a crazy game," Graham said. "Our fans stayed behind us and that's what kept us hyped in the game."