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GHSA CLASS AA BOYS STATE TOURNAMENT: Albany High's season ends in Sweet 16

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

BARNESVILLE -- Lamar County coach Gregory Freeman was standing there, pumping his fist Wednesday night late in the game.

He wanted his team to land the knockout blow against Albany. And finally it did.

Along the way, Lamar had somehow survived Albany High's flurry of punches, Albany's run after run in a game that felt more like classic boxing match than anyone could have expected.

"It was just two teams slugging it out,'' said Albany High coach Archie Chatmon, whose No. 2-seeded Indians did everything but win this showdown in the GHSA Class AA Sweet 16 round of the state playoffs.

In the end, Lamar, a No. 1 seed, pulled away to win, 63-55, in this high-energy, fast-paced game that propelled the Trojans to the Elite 8 round of the playoffs this weekend and ended Albany's memorable season.

"They got up early but we stayed with them,'' Chatmon said. "They would make a run and then we would make a run. It was a game of runs. It was a close game right until the end when they put it away.''

How close?

"It was one of those things that if we're not (on the road in their house) we probably beat them,'' Chatmon said. "The home court made all the difference in the world. It was a well-officiated game, and it was a great game. They were just a little bit better than us.

"But to come up here and battle them like this. We battled them right down to the end. I couldn't be prouder of my kids."

Albany ends its season at 15-12, and Wednesday's loss in the second round of the playoffs is indicative of the kind of team Chatmon had all season.

The Indians were in the game late with a great chance to win 25 of their 27 games this year and showed a no-quit attitude that says a lot about Chatmon and his kids.

"We fought right to the end,'' Chatmon said.

Lamar (27-3) led nearly the entire game, but Albany almost took a lead into the fourth quarter. With 35 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Albany pulled to within three. Indians guard Tim Pierce snatched a rebound off a Lamar County missed free throw and went the length of the floor to float in a layup.

But while the play brought the game to within one possession in the quarter's closing seconds, Lamar's Camden Foster made two free throws to extend the lead again to end the quarter.

Foster led the Trojans with 23 points. Pierce, who emerged this season as one of the best players in Southwest Georgia, finished with a game-high 26 points, and Larry Sanford, who -- like Pierce -- had a monster breakout season, dropped in 18.

All five of Chatmon's starters, including Kenny Anderson, Jontavious Morris and Rosco Byrd, will return. They're all juniors. The Indians had just one senior on this year's team, and their memorable run in the playoffs all but marks a new era for hoops at Albany High, where the future couldn't look brighter.

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Macon Telegraph writer Coley Harvey contributed to this report