Friday night was the most important game of the season for both Carver and Shaw, and they played like it.
With home-court advantage in the Class 5A playoffs on the line, neither team could afford to look ahead to a potential championship game on Saturday. All that mattered was beating the other on Friday.
The result was a fast-paced, ferocious affair that needed an extra period to settle the drama. There was never more than a four-point deficit at the end of a quarter during regulation, and only a free throw to make it a two-possession game with two seconds left finally ended the suspense.
When all the dust had settled, it was Shaw escaping with a 67-63 win, earning home court in the playoffs and setting a date with LaGrange in the Region 1-5A championship game on Saturday at LaGrange.
Only after the game could Raiders coach Terry White finally allow himself to look ahead.
“You’ve got to sell out the first night,” he said. “You can’t afford to save your energy for the championship game because that game might not be there. It took all we had tonight. We’ll worry about tomorrow tomorrow.”
Both teams matched each other blow for blow throughout the game. Surprisingly, it was a wire-to-wire victory for the Raiders, as they never once trailed even in overtime. Their biggest lead, however, was seven and the Tigers responded every time Shaw looked to break away.
In the second quarter, a three-pointer by B.J. Knight gave Shaw a 24-17 lead, but Carver scored the next six on a pair of baskets by Jawon Pass and one by Daniel Melvin. Shaw extended it back to five, but by halftime it was all knotted at 28-28.
Shaw matched its biggest lead of the night with 4:50 remaining in the game on an impressive lay-in by Dakeen Diaz. Diaz went up for a lay-in with his left hand and was fouled, but powered the ball up and in. He missed the free throw, leaving the Raiders with a 48-41 lead inside of five minutes.
That lead was down to two with 53 seconds left. In the final minute, Pass knocked down a shot to tie it at 54-54 and, after two made free throws by Diaz, Stefan Harris hit a 15-footer at the buzzer to force overtime. The shot bounced high off the rim and through the basket as time expired.
Shaw jumped in front by six in overtime and made just enough free throws to put the game away at 67-63.
“This was our biggest game of the year,” White said after the game. “If you can’t get up for this, what can you get up for?”
The biggest difference-maker for Shaw was Diaz, who came up with a response nearly every time Carver got close. He scored 18 points in the second half and overtime combined and led the way as the Raiders played keepaway, holding possession for more than a minute on two occasions to help milk the clock. He finished with a game-high 23.
“He is — I don’t know what else I can say about him and what he’s done for us,” White said. “He takes it all on and it doesn’t bother him. He’s one of the toughest guys I’ve ever coached. That’s it.”
Jarquez Brown added 17 and Kourtney Shakespeare 14 for Shaw. Harris had 20 and Pass 16 for Carver. Rahmir Nelson added 13.
Carver will face Northside in the third-place game at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at LaGrange.
LAGRANGE BOYS 67, NORTHSIDE 61: In the second of two tight semifinals games, LaGrange did just enough in the fourth quarter to pull out a 67-61 win over Northside to advance to the Region 1-5A championship game against Shaw.
With the loss, Northside falls to the consolation game against Carver, which will be played at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at LaGrange.
Davion Thomas led the Patriots in the losing effort with 20 points, followed by Cordale Scott’s 12 and Jaykwon Walton’s 11.
LaGrange was led by LaPerion Perry’s 17 points and Rico Smith’s 15.
Friday at LaGrange
Shaw 15 13 16 12 11—67
Carver 12 16 12 16 7—63
Dakeen Diaz 23, Jarquez Brown 17, Kourtney Shakespeare 14, Paulding 6, Knight 5, Porter-Wilson 2.
Stefan Harris 20, Jawon Pass 16, Rahmir Nelson 13, Melvin 4, Payne 4, Calhoun 2, Wilson 2, Cummings 2.
Records: Shaw, 19-8; Carver, 18-8. Next: Shaw, 7:30 p.m. Saturday vs. LaGrange in region championship at LaGrange; Carver, 4:30 p.m. Saturday vs. Northside in region consolation at LaGrange.
Friday at LaGrange
Northside 17 11 17 16—61
LaGrange 16 15 19 17—67
Davion Thomas 20, Cordale Scott 12, Jaykwon Walton 11, Hopkins 8, David 6, Richardson 4.
LaPerion Perry 17, Rico Smith 15, Epps 9, Fanning 7, Duckett 7, Hardy 4, Gray 3, Freeman 3, Jackson 2.
Records: Northside, 17-9; LaGrange, 21-5. Next: Northside, 4:30 p.m. Saturday vs. Carver in region consolation at LaGrange; LaGrange, 7:30 p.m. Saturday vs. Shaw in region championship at LaGrange.