Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips
Peachtree Ridge's Shaq Morris (32) fouls Mill Creek's Ronald Wamer (24) as he drives to the basket Tuesday.
HOSCHTON — Neither Peachtree Ridge nor Mill Creek showed any quit during their Region 7-AAAAA boys basketball clash Tuesday night.
However, the No. 4 ranked Lions won this battle of wills in two places — on the boards and at the foul line.
Peachtree Ridge held a 10-rebound advantage at the glass, while hitting 71.4 percent from the line as opposed to just 52.2 percent for Mill Creek to escape with a 69-66 road win in an overtime thriller.
Corey Heyward’s two free throws with 28.1 seconds left in the extra session gave the Lions (15-4, 8-2) the lead for good, and two more from Eric Ryba with 11 seconds left gave them the final three-point margin that kept them in sole possession of first place in the region.
“We didn’t make as many (free throws) as I would’ve liked,” Peachtree Ridge coach Keith Arrington said. “But we made a few — enough to win one on the road, which is pretty big in this region.”
The Lions had plenty of chances to make their evening much easier throughout the game, leading by as much as nine points in the first half and as much as 54-48 after a pair of free throws by Shaq Morris — who led Peachtree Ridge off the bench with 21 points, five rebounds and five steals — with 3:07 left in regulation.
But each time Peachtree Ridge looked like it was ready to pull away, Mill Creek would pull the Lions back.
Climbing what seemed like a mountain most of the night, the Hawks (12-8, 5-5) were able to stay within shouting distance in the fourth quarter thanks to seniors Brandon Hayman, who scored six of his team-high 21 points in the fourth quarter, and Ronald Wamer, who added five of his 11 points in the period.
But it was junior Paul Evans, who had scored just one point over the first 31 minutes of the game, who came up with the biggest shot of Mill Creek’s comeback.
The 6-foot guard knocked down a 20-footer from the left wing with 16 seconds left in regulation to finally pull the Hawks even at 60-60.
“We didn’t come to play in the first quarter,” Mill Creek coach Chad Rogers said. “As the game went on, we did a better job. ... (and) we hit some big shots, but the biggest thing was, we weren’t physical enough (Tuesday) night.”
The Hawks actually had one last chance to win the game in regulation when Wamer stripped Morris of the ball at the top of the key and dribbled just inside midcourt before letting fly a heave that was off the mark at the buzzer, sending the game into overtime.
In the extra frame, Peachtree Ridge used a 5-1 run — all at the line — to again seemingly take control at 65-61 following 1 of 2 free throws by Heyward with 1:40 left.
“We were able to keep our composure every time they came back on us,” Arrington said. “And we had guys make some plays down the stretch.”
But the Lions missed just enough from the line to give Mill Creek a chance, and trailing 65-63, the Hawks took advantage.
It was Evans who again came up with the big shot by draining another 3-pointer just to the left of the key to give Mill Creek’s its first lead since early in the second quarter at 66-65 with 39 seconds left.
Heyward wasted no time driving up the left wing to draw a foul before hitting a pair of free throws with 28.1 seconds left to put Peachtree Ridge back on top 67-66.
But even after a missed shot and two more free throws from Ryba with 11 seconds left, Mill Creek had one last shot to retie the game.
However, a strong defensive effort forced Evans to double clutch on another 3-point attempt that hit off the backboard, and time ran out before he could run down his own rebound.
Heyward joined Morris in double figures with 16 points and led Peachtree Ridge with eight rebounds. Moe Armistead added 11 points and four steals for the Lions, while Ryba finished with 10 points.
Hayman had a game-high nine rebounds, plus four steals, to go along with his points.
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