Dacula boys outlast South in double OT thriller

SNELLVILLE -- On paper, the No. 4 vs. No. 5 game is supposed to be the best, most evenly-matched quarterfinal of a region basketball tournament.

The Region 8-AAAAA boys matchup between Dacula and South Gwinnett lived up to that reputation -- and then some.

The two teams battled it out for two overtimes before Xavier Okoro hit a pair of free throws 44 seconds into the second extra frame to give Dacula the lead for good, and the Falcons held on for a 62-57 victory Wednesday at Shiloh.

Okoro led four Falcons in double figures with 24 points and pulled down eight rebounds as Dacula (15-11) earned its first state tournament berth since 2008, when the school played in Class AAAA.

But it took more than just Okoro's effort for Dacula to move into Friday's semifinal opposite top-seeded and No. 3 state-ranked Shiloh.

And it definitely didn't come easy.

"It's been a while," Falcons coach B.J. Roy said of making the state tournament. "The guys worked hard. All the kids (on both teams) were playing hard, were diving (on the floor). It was intense. It was physical. It was played like a four-five game should be. I thought our boys really played with a ton of poise late in the game."

Both teams were forced to play with poise at different times in the game.

After taking a 25-19 lead at halftime behind 12 points from Simeon Dennis, who matched Okoro for game-high scoring honors with 24 points, South (9-16) led by as many as eight points early in the third quarter.

The two teams then surged back and forth, with Dacula first using a 14-2 run to vault to as much as a 35-29 lead after the second of Brandon Goodson's two third-quarter 3-pointers with 2:06 left in the period before the Comets held the Falcons scoreless over the next seven-plus minutes to jump back in front by six points at 41-35 following Kyle Wright's baseline driving and reverse layup with 4:56 left in regulation.

Both Goodson and Wright would be heard from again down the stretch, however.

Goodson, who finished with 14 points and seven rebounds, led off with Dacula trying to claw back into the game and prevent South from running out the clock.

Though he found a brief opening around a screen deep on the right wing, a Comets defender managed to get a hand up to contest his 3-point attempt from about 25 feet out.

But the 6-foot junior let fly with a rainbow that hit nothing but net to tie the game at 44-all with 19 seconds left in regulation, sending the game into overtime after two South shots were blocked in a mad scramble in the lane as the clock expired.

"He made a contested three," a disappointed South coach Scott Bracco said of Goodson's shot. "It was probably from the NBA line. That's just the way the ball bounces."

But the ball would bounce South's way with the lack of a bounce late in the first overtime, as Wright, who scored 15 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and both overtimes, took his turn.

After bringing the Comets to within a point with a steal and layup with 17 seconds left in the first extra frame, the 5-10 junior quickly took the inbound pass after Okoro had apparently put the game away with a layup with four seconds left and sped up the court, letting fly with a leaping one-hander from about 30 feet out as the buzzer sounded.

And when the ball swished through the net and sent the crowd into a frenzy, the game was headed to a second overtime.

But Dacula finally put the game away after Okoro's two free throws with some tough defense.

Steals by Goodson and Okoro wound up as points -- first on two Jaylen Williams free throws and the next on Okoro's transition layup -- to give the Falcons some breathing room at 56-50 with 2:12 remaining.

South managed to close to within three points twice more, but Dacula put the game away by hitting 10 of 12 free throws in the second overtime -- including 4 of 4 each from Okoro and Williams.

"That's phenomenal for us," said Roy, whose team also got 12 points from Anthony Morse and 10 from Williams. "We were going back to trying to hang our hat on our defensive intensity, and I felt like it picked up late in the second half (an overtime). ... It was just a battle."

Meanwhile, it was a tough ending to the game and the season for South, which fell despite the scoring of Dennis and Wright, plus four steals from Wright and a seven-point, seven-rebound night fro Montrell Marshall.

"You know what? We played a great game," Bracco said. "I'm extremely proud of these guys. We had a lot of guys step up this year. They grew as men. They faced a lot of adversity. But I could not be any prouder of them."

Central Gwinnett 72, Archer 68

Michael Vos-Otin led four players in double figures with 16 points, and Darius Joell and Justin Martin each hit clutch free throws in the final 10 seconds as the Black Knights (13-13) fought their way into the state tournament for the sixth straight season with the upset of the third-seeded Tigers.

Layups by Martin and Brian Egejuru in the final 25 seconds of the third quarter gave Central, which plays in Friday's semifinal against Berkmar, the lead for good.

But Archer (18-8) wouldn't go away, with Randall Smith scoring 11 of his game-high 18 points in the fourth quarter, including three free throws that pulled the Tigers to within 70-68 with 11.9 seconds left.

However, Joell hit 1 of 2 free throws with 10.7 seconds left, and after grabbing the rebound of Aubrey Overby's attempt at the game-tying 3-pointer, Martin connected on 1 of 2 from the line with 1.4 seconds left to seal the win.

Egejuru also reached double figures for Central with 13 points, while Joell finished with 12 points and Martin added 11 points and five rebounds.

Smith also had five steals to go with his points, while Tramique Anderson joined him in double-figure scoring for Archer with 13 points and pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds.