Westover's T.J. Cromer. 10, puts up a shot against Albany High's tim Pierce in the championship game ofthe U Save It boys basketball Tournament on Tuesday. Westover won, 54-51.
ALBANY — It was one of those hold-your-breath moments, the kind players live for and dream about.
But this was no dream.
This was Dequan Green making more than just a shot, winning more than just a game — and perhaps making a statement about himself and his team that might just carry both for the rest of the season.
It’s was Green’s bombs-away 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds left that lifted Westover past Albany High, 54-51, in the championship game of the U save It Boys Basketball Tournament Tuesday at the Albany Civic Center, where the top two teams in Southwest Georgia met for the title.
“Big shot ... big shot! That was awesome,’’ Albany High coach Archie Chatmon said. “At the end both teams got what they wanted. We wanted to make them shoot a deep one, and they wanted him to make it. He made it.’’
Green never doubted it.
He got the ball and brought it up court, and you could see in his eyes he was ready to launch a game-winner.
“I just got the ball and I wanted to win the game and it happened,’’ Green said. “Big time players make big time plays.
“When I took the shot it felt good,’’ Green said. “When it went in, I felt great!’’
The large Westover crowd went nuts. Green jumped up and ran to teammate Brandon Hudson and hugged him as the Westover players danced in celebration.
Green’s dagger from well behind the arc not only beat the Indians, but it handed them their first loss of the season and will knock Albany out of the No. 1 spot in The Herald Fab 5 poll as the top-ranked team in Southwest Georgia.
It was Westover that put the Indians there Monday night when the Patriots beat undefeated Monroe in the semifinals to knock the Tornadoes from the No. 1 spot and move Albany High, which had been ranked No. 2 all year, to the top spot.
Westover (8-3) moved from No. 3 to No. 2 in the poll on Monday night, and then pulled off its second big upset in less than 24 hours, beating an Albany team that had already defeated Westover twice (72-61 and 66-56).
But Green didn’t play in last week’s loss at Albany High. he sat out for undisclosed reasons, and didn’t start in Westover’s last four games. He came off the bench to score 15 against Monroe, and came off the bench Tuesday to score 14 points, including two huge 3-pointers. The first one broke up a 45-45 tie with 3:30 left in the game, and the second won it.
“He’s back,’’ shouted Westover coach Dallis Smith. “And he makes a difference. He made some big shots. He’s been stroking them, and he hit a big shot to win it.
“It was going to be either him or (T.J. Cromer) to take the last shot, and Cromer was double-teamed,’’ Smith said. “You could see (when he brought the ball up the court) that he was going to shoot it. He made it.’’
Green, who was a preseason Herald Super 6er, said he wasn’t thinking about redeeming himself. He just wanted to show his coach and everyone else what kind of player he can be.
“I just thought I needed to come back and play with more intensity,’’ Green said.
Green finished with 14 points, four rebounds and three steals and was named to the all-tournament team.
Cromer led the way for the Patriots with 18 points, and won the Charlie Givens MVP Award, named this year for the late legendary Dougherty basketball coach.
“It’s an honor, but I don’t think I deserve the award,’’ Cromer said. “I think it should be the most valuable team award.’’
No one is hotter than the Patriots, who simply wouldn’t let Albany High run away. They held Super 6er Tim Pierce, who scored 32 against Westover last week, to 15 points, and Larry Sanford, who scored 26 against Westover last week, also finished with 15 points.
Pierce gave Albany (6-1) its biggest lead of the night when he grabbed a rebound and hit a spinning drive to lift the Indians to a 45-40 lead with six minutes left, but Hudson nailed a 3 to close to 45-43 and after Kenneth Towns made a steal for Westover, Cromer hit an outside shot to knot it at 45. Then came Green’s long 3 that ended an 8-0 Westover run and gave the Patriots the lead.
They held it until Sanford hit a drive to tie it at 49 with 30 seconds left. cromer answered with a drive down the middle of the lane with 18 seconds left, but Pierce nailed two free throws with 11.3 seconds left to knot things at 51-51.
Then came Green and that final shot.
“Green was big for them all night,’’ Chatmon said. “He had at least three big shots for them. That’s what it’s all about, players making big plays. What did you expect. We had an instant classic — it was an instant classic.’’