ALBANY -- Crisp County's kids and coaches stormed the court like they had just won the state title, hugging in a big blue and yellow ball, right there in the Boston Garden.
Beating Westover at home is always special, but this had meaning beyond words for Crisp, which pulled off the huge upset Thursday, holding back Herald No. 5 Westover, 58-55, in the semifinals of the Region 1-AAA tournament.
"It means a lot because in the history of Crisp County no boys basketball team has ever won a region title,'' Crisp County coach Terry Smith said. "It's been 54 years.''
The Cougars (13-14) will play for one tonight.
They meet Herald No. 2 Monroe, which was looking forward to the rubber match game with top-seeded Westover. It might have happened if not for D.J. Jackson, who took over the game in the fourth quarter, scoring Crisp's first 16 points. Crisp got a big drive from
Jontavius Carter, who was alone after the Cougars spread the ball, and scored with 6.3 seconds left to lift Crisp to a 58-55 lead. But he was the only other Cougar to score in the fourth.
"D.J. is a great player,'' Smith said. "He's one of those kids who wants the ball in the big game. He wants the ball when the game is on the line.''
Jackson hit three 3s and nailed 7-of-7 free throws in the fourth quarter to finish with 22 points (that's right, he scored just six points through the first three quarters).
The Patriots, who led by as many as 10 points twice in the third quarter, led from the tip until Jackson hit a 3 to lift Crisp to a 51-50 lead with 3:37 left. Super 6er Malcolm Sapp, who finished with 12 points, answered with a 3 to give Westover a 53-51 lead, but Jackson hit a pair of free throws to knot things at 53, and after Kenneth Towns drove for a 55-53 lead, Jackson was fouled while taking a 3-point shot, and nailed all three free throws to give Crisp a 56-55 lead with 2:04 left.
Westover, which was led by Dequan Green's 17 points, missed its final five shots of the night, including a desperation 3 by Sapp at the buzzer.
"We gave the game away, absolutely, gave it away,'' Westover coach Dallis Smith said. "We made too many mental mistakes, and you can't do that. It should have never come down to one shot. We just kept turning the ball over, just handing them the ball. We have no excuses.
"We're the home team and we're supposed to win. But they were the better team (Thursday night).''
Westover (16-10) committed 17 turnovers, including five in the final five minutes of the game, and now faces rival Dougherty in tonight's consolation game. The Patriots can finish no better than a No. 3 seed next week and will have to go on the road in the state playoffs.
"We just have to become road warriors,'' Smith said.