FORT VALLEY -- Glenn Hills boys basketball players covered their faces with their jerseys while walking off the court following their Class AAAA state quarterfinal against Bainbridge on Friday night.
They couldn't believe they let this one get away.
Glenn Hills controlled the matchup for three quarters, then had two chances to send it into overtime in a nightmarish final period, yet failed on both. But Rickey McCullough's Bainbridge team, which has now won 20 in a row dating back to December 2009, used that strong final quarter to surge past Glenn Hills in a 56-53 win at Fort Valley State.
"We should have won that game," said Glenn Hills coach Travis McRae. "It hurts a little bit to lose that game, because we pretty much controlled it except for that (Bainbridge run) to start the fourth quarter."
Glenn Hills point guard Ron Myers missed two free throws with 9.3 seconds left that could have tied the game, then misfired on a clean 3-point attempt just before the buzzer.
"I'm thinking tie game ... get ready to play overtime. He's been in these situations before and has just been automatic," McRae said. "Thinking back, maybe I should have called a timeout and set up a play, maybe a drive and kick. Everybody can make a 3 on our team, basically."
With the win, Bainbridge advances to its second consecutive Class AAA Final Four and will face Mays -- which beat Hillgrove, 47-46, in an earlier Elite 8 matchup Friday -- at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Gwinnett Arena.
The Bearcats were led by 16 points from Justin Harris and 15 from leading scorer Devon Baulkmon.
Glenn Hills didn't convert a field goal in the fourth quarter until Chris Washington nailed a 3-pointer in transition with 2:52 left, although Glenn Hills still trailed by six.
Bainbridge started the final quarter on a 13-2 run, delighting its fans who had watched the team struggle most of the first three periods against an aggressive Glenn Hills defense. Bainbridge went 1-of-7 from the foul line in the final 2:30 and missed the front end of three separate 1-and-1 attempts in that span.
"I thought we were going to let it slip away, I really did," Bainbridge coach Rickey McCullough said. "We didn't play one of our better games, but I think they had a lot to do with that."
Six Spartans combined to hit seven 3-pointers, which had McRae wishing he had called that last timeout.
Terrell Fitts scored 22 points to lead Glenn Hills in his final game as a Spartan. Lavell Watson added 10.
Bainbridge, which defeated Evans in the second round again because of a superior second half, had to replace all five starters from last season's Final Four team.
"I mean it was anybody's game until the end," McCullough said. "They won every quarter but the last one."