Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips
Peachtree Ridge's Benny Johnson, left, goes up for a shot as Collins Hill's Jeff Glover, right, gets his hands on the ball on Tuesday.
SUWANEE — A missed free throw in the middle of the fourth quarter gnawed at Shaq Morris.
It was the front end of a one-and-one and led, in a small part, to Collins Hill coming back from five points down to take a lead after four straight Saah Nimley free throws. Nimley hit the final of his four with 22.3 seconds left. With the Lions’ leading scorer and go-to player, Corey Heyward, sitting on the bench with five fouls, Peachtree Ridge turned to Morris.
The senior took the ball off of a screen and drove into the paint and his layup fell with 2.5 seconds left. Nimley’s half-court shot missed and Peachtree Ridge students stormed the court looking for Morris following the 65-64 win.
“I knew I had to make up for that missed free throw,” Morris said. “I had to score.”
Morris’ game-winner was one of just four Lions field goals in a tight fourth quarter where a high-flying game slowed to a deliberate pace.
Neither team wanted to make a mistake.
“It was a nerve-wracking game,” Morris said.
Neither team wanted to make a free throw, either. In the fourth quarter alone the teams combined to shoot 7-for-14 from the line, with the Eagles’ Herdie Lawrence missing four in a row.
“Everybody had plenty of opportunities to win (the game),” said Peachtree Ridge coach Keith Arrington.
Until Morris’ shot, it looked like the Eagles’ Nimley would again be the hero.
He scored just four points in the final quarter — all from the free throw line — but he caused three Lions turnovers and grabbed a loose ball that led to points in the final minute. He ended a tough game with 15 points and four assists.
“He’s going to score,” Arrington said of Nimley. “We just want to make it tough on him.”
Peachtree Ridge kept a man on Nimley the entire game, forcing Collins Hill to move the point guard duties to Lawrence and Andre Allen for much of the game.
Lawrence filled the role, scoring 15 for the Eagles. J.C. Bonny led Collins Hill with 18 points and six rebounds.
And when Heyward fouled out with 1:15 left, it looked like that was the break Collins Hill needed to pull away. Heyward had helped Peachtree Ridge keep a lead with three 3s in the third quarter as part of his game-high 19 points and his shooting was the only offense the Lions could find for much of the second half.
His departure led to the first of Nimley’s go-ahead free throws.
But then came Morris’ shot, a big shot for the win, but also to show that Peachtree Ridge is more than just Heyward.
“(The win) is big because we did it with Corey on the bench,” Arrington said. “It gives us some depth.”
“It shows was a good team when we play together,” Morris said. “We don’t have just one player.”
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