Staff Photo: John Bohn Central Gwinnett's Brian Egejuru (5) is blocked by Archer defender Brennan Ariel (20) during a basketball game played Tuesday evening.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- The outcome notwithstanding, Tuesday night's Region 8-AAAAA boys basketball clash between Central Gwinnett and Archer was probably just the kind of game Jerry Coleman would've enjoyed.
Both teams seemed to channel the former Black Knights sparkplug, who passed away unexpectedly over the holidays and was remembered in a pregame ceremony.
But in the end, it was the visiting Tigers who were able to show just a little more of the endurance and never say die attitude Coleman was known for.
Bryan Hamlet gave Archer the lead for good with 2:02 remaining in the second overtime period, and fellow junior Randall Smith hit eight free throws -- part of a game-high 20-point effort -- to help the Tigers hold off the Black Knights 70-62.
"It was just the kind of high-energy game he would've liked," said Central coach David Allen, who coached Coleman the past three seasons.
It was an emotional night for everyone in attendance, including Archer players Tramique Anderson, Khari Stevens and Brennan Ariel, who, like most of the Black Knights, grew up with Coleman and would've attended Central before being redistricted when Archer opened up.
And that emotion was definitely left on the court by both teams Tuesday.
"Everyone feels it because (Coleman) was such a great kid," Archer coach Tim Watkins said. "And we had our own loss with the vice president of our booster club passing last week. So, it's been an emotional time for all of us. And (Tuesday) night, it was two really good basketball teams battling hard for 40 (-plus) minutes."
Both teams had chances to take control in regulation, with Central (8-4, 3-2) opening the game on a 12-2 run, before Archer (9-4, 5-1) roared back and built as much as 38-28 after Smith's 3-pointer on the left wing 35 seconds into the third quarter.
But Central refused to quit, with Slim Delbridge, K.C. Maultsby and Brian Egejuru leading the charge on an 11-0 run that vaulted the Black Knights back in front at 39-38 following a Justin Martin layup with 5:01 left in the period.
"We played really poor in the first half just all around," Allen said. "I really thought we played some of our best basketball (of the season) in the third and fourth quarter."
From there, the two teams battled back and forth, with eight ties and three lead changes over the remainder of regulation that included a wild finish.
It looked like Nafis Floyd had come up with a steal and would break away for a layup with less than two minutes to play, only to stumble over one of the officials and lose the ball back to Central before Delbridge slipped on a wet spot on the floor and was whistled for traveling.
Then, it appeared Egejuru had won the game for Central by flipping in the rebound of Joell's halfcourt heave, but the basket was waved off when it was ruled it came after the buzzer sounded for overtime.
Finally, Archer began to take control in the second extra frame, with Hamlet driving the lane before pulling up for a rainbow jumper that put the Tigers up 62-60 with 2:02 left.
Then with the score 64-62, Central attempted to get substitutes into the game on a deadfall situation with less than a minute to play.
But officials put the ball in play before the subs could make it to the scorer's table, and Smith came up with his fourth steal of the night, and was fouled by Egejuru -- a fouled ruled intentional -- with 23.5 seconds left.
The junior point guard -- who added four rebounds and four assists on the night -- calmly hit both free throws and four more over the next 10 seconds to help seal the win for the Tigers.
"It was a total team effort," Watkins said. "If you're going to play double overtime, you've got to have everybody contributing, and we did."
Indeed, Anderson (15 points) and Floyd (11 points) joined Smith in double figures, while Kelvin Nwanze pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Delbridge led Central with a double-double on 17 points and 13 rebounds, plus three blocked shots, while Joell added 13 points and Egejuru (nine points, six assists) and Maultsby (nine points and six rebounds) also had a strong night.
Still, it was a hard-luck loss similar to the Black Knights' last outing, an overtime setback to North Gwinnett in the Jared Cook Holiday Classic finals two weeks ago.
"We've got to find a way to execute down the stretch," Allen said. "Give Archer credit. They've got a good team, and we've got a good team. We've got to find a way to win the close ones.
Central girls 44, Archer 40
The visiting Tigers (8-5, 3-3) nearly erased a 13-point deficit after three quarters, and pulled as close as two points in the final minute.
But Alexandra Frazier hit the last of her game-high 18 points on a pair of free throws with 24.1 seconds remaining to help the Black Knights (5-7, 3-2) hold on for the victory.
Shan'Taja Latimore also reached double figures for Central with 13 points, while Alesha Mann led Archer with 11 points.