Lakewood Leopards head coach Sylvester Pittman was almost speechless after a dramatic win against the Rosewood Eagles Friday night, but could muster out the words, “Yes, that was the most exciting game I have ever been a part of.”
The Leopards won in dramatic fashion, 49-48, in a game that went down to the final seconds, giving Lakewood their second straight win in front of a roaring Lakewood crowd that was as loud as ever with the game on the line.
Rosewood had full control of the game up until the fourth quarter, as they worked around the paint and did what they wanted with the Leopards at first. At the end of the first quarter, Rosewood had a small 14-11 lead, but it would grow in the second quarter as the Eagles continued to find ways to put the ball through the net.
At halftime, Rosewood held a comfortable 26-19 lead and was hungry to tack on more in the second half, but Lakewood had other ideas. After a shootout in the third quarter, the Eagles still had a 37-31 lead.
However, the fourth quarter is when that all changed.
Lakewood began scoring at will and playing aggressive defense and was able to tie the game up at 38 apiece thanks to a three from Johnny Owens with 5:34 to go. Owens’ fellow sharpshooter, Quamaine Williams, formed a one-two punch with Owens, helping Lakewood. A Williams jumper got the crowd to their feet at the sight of their team’s first lead of the game, 40-38.
Controversial calls had the Rosewood fans upset and they let the refs hear it, but that did not affect the Leopards as they tacked on two more points to increase their lead to 42-38.
The Eagles fought back, scoring four straight points to tie it up again with 2:04 left in the ballgame, only to have the tie erased on the other end after another three by Williams. Rosewood answered, tying it back up 45-45 after getting a bucket and making the foul shot that came with it.
Owens responded this time, hitting a short jumper to take back a two-point lead, 47-45, with 51 seconds left.
Lakewood stiffened up on defense and it worked, as Lakewood got the ball back. However, Owens, on an inbounds pass, walked too much when he was out of bounds, giving the ball right back to the Eagles. On the ensuing possession, the Leopards fouled Rosewood’s Tucker Chapin as he was attempting a layup, giving the junior a chance to tie the game up. Chapin made both and the ballgame was knotted up yet again at 47-47 with just 19.9 seconds remaining.
Lakewood hurried down the court to try and get a shot in before time expired, and passed the ball off to Camron Sessoms. With all eyes on Sessoms, he took a short jumper and swished it with 8.3 seconds remaining. The crowd roared, and Sessoms fed off the crowd, flexing his muscles and yelling out in excitement as his teammates surrounded him in joy at the potential game winner he just made.
The game was not over, though, as Lakewood again unintentionally fouled on the other end with 2.3 seconds left, giving the Eagles a chance to tie it up yet again and possibly send it into overtime.
Rosewood Senior Conner Vernon stepped up to the free throw line to attempt to make his two free throws and hush the crowd. Vernon made one, putting the score at 49-48, and with the crowd roaring, Vernon missed his second shot, securing the win for Lakewood as the Leopards ran out the clock and players began celebrating.
Pittman praised his team for how well they dealt with the adversity.
“We faced a lot of adversity, we kind of got divided, but then I kept believing in my team,” Pittman happily said.
His team is now 7-8 overall.
Rosewood head coach Daniel Mitchell said he was proud of how his team got back in the game even after Lakewood looked like they were going to put it away.
“We did well at the end to get back into the game, especially after they got a couple of big shots and got the crowd back in the game to get the lead, but we did a good job fighting back.” Mitchell said. With the loss, Rosewood falls to 4-13 overall.
Lakewood will be back in action on Tuesday as they travel to take on Wallace-Rose Hill.
Reach Daron Barefoot at firstname.lastname@example.org.