Albany High’s Tim Pierce, right, and Tyrone Culbreth ended their season Saturday with a 63-49 loss to Vidalia after the game started with a controversial technical foul on AHS. (joe.bellacomo@albanyherald.com)

Albany High’s Tim Pierce, right, and Tyrone Culbreth ended their season Saturday with a 63-49 loss to Vidalia after the game started with a controversial technical foul on AHS. (joe.bellacomo@albanyherald.com)

SAVANNAH — This was ugly — ugly in every imaginable way, from the uniforms Albany High was forced to wear to the way the Indians’ remarkable season came to an end.

It ended the best regular-season in Albany High history on a rain-filled night in Savannah, where Vidalia and Devin Atkins took everything away that Albany’s kids had worked so hard for all year.

They took everything but their shirts.

They didn’t have to — the officials grabbed those before the game started.

It was that kind of night for Albany.

In the end, it was Vidalia 63, Albany High 49 as Vidalia pulled off a comeback for the ages in the Elite 8 round of the Class AA state playoffs, stopping Albany High just short of the Final Four.

“It’s painful,’’ said Albany High coach Archie Chatmon, whose team had the best regular-season record in the school’s history. “It’s painful for me and painful for those seniors. It was a magical run. You hate to see it end.”

The Indians (25-3) led after the first, 11-10, and were up, 22-13, at halftime, and it appeared they were on their way to Macon and their first Final Four appearance since the early 1990s when they jumped out to a 28-19 lead midway in the third quarter.

But that’s when Atkins started heating up. Vidalia closed to 30-26 when Atkins hit his first 3 of the night with 1:30 left in the third, and when he connected on three consecutive free throws at the 1:17 mark, Vidalia had closed the gap to 32-29.

That’s when the run really began — the run that ended Albany’s season.

Vidalia forced four consecutive turnovers and finished the quarter with a 10-0 run to lead 36-32, and just kept coming, scoring five fast points to open the fourth to take a 41-32 lead with 6:00 left.

Atkins fueled the comeback, scoring 12 points on three 3-pointers and his three free throws he was awarded when he was fouled beyond the arc. He scored 15 points in the third quarter, and 15 more in the fourth, finishing the game with five 3s that killed Albany High.

He did all that after scoring just one point in the first half. He scored that point on a free throw before Albany ever took the court.

The Indians were shocked, stunned and a bit bewildered when they were hit with a technical foul before the game began in a bizarre call that defies logic or wisdom. Albany was hit with a tech for bringing the wrong uniforms. The Indians wore their white home uniforms because the GHSA bracket clearly stated the team at the top of the bracket is the home team.

But when the Indians arrived at Savannah State they were told the bracket had been changed and Vidalia would be the home team. The Indians had to wear their orange warm-up tops so Vidalia could wear white. Vidalia started the game with two technical free throws and the ball, and took a 1-0 lead after hitting one of two.

By the end of the first quarter, Albany had taken a 11-10 lead and the Indians went to halftime with a 22-13 cushion, holding Vidalia to just one basket from the floor in the second quarter after a drive by Cole Johnson, who knocked Larry Sanford to the floor on the play.

The image no one in Albany will forget is the sight of Albany’s Tim Pierce getting hammered on a drive to the basket and crumpled on the floor in pain during Vidalia’s 15-0 run that turned the game around.

Pierce was clearly in pain, but there was no call as Vidalia raced to a fast-break basket to the delight of a large crowd at Savannah State, which is 90 miles from Vidalia.

Atkins’ second-half heroics ignited his team and the crowd, and Albany could never get closer than eight points — 55-47 — the rest of the way as Vidalia (26-3) poured in points on fast breaks and the free throw line in the fourth quarter. Vidalia shot 18 free throws — in the fourth quarter alone.

The Indians got another big game from Pierce, who led the way with 16 points, and Kenny Anderson and Larry Sanford had their moments. Anderson had 13 points, nine rebounds and five steals, and Sanford added 11 points on the night. But it wasn’t enough — not against Atkins, who missed only two shots in the second half while pouring in 15 points in the third and another 15 in the fourth.

“(Atkins) is a player,’’ Chatmon said. ‘‘We contained him for a half, but once he hit that first 3 he started feeling good and that was it. And we didn’t take care of the ball in the third quarter, and that was the difference in the game.’’

The Indians also had a tough night swapping players inside as Chatmon used a variety of combinations because Tyrone Culbreth, Albany’s 6-4 post, got into foul trouble early and fouled out with 3:29 left in the fourth.

It was a long night for many reasons.

This had been a season of celebration at Albany High, where the Indians lost only two games — both in the final seconds — and brought a 15-game winning streak into the Elite 8. They did everything right all season and did everything right until late in the third quarter when the momentum, the game and the season all seemed to slide away from them.

“I really feel bad for the seniors,’’ Chatmon said. “We had such a special season, and it was a great run, a magical run. It’s going to take a while for them to realize just how special it was.’’

Comments

coachjohnson42 2 years, 1 month ago

Albany High had a great run.....much respect goes out to the INDIANS!!!! GOOD JOB COACH CHATMON. Great Job everyone involved with that team.......

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cspecial199 2 years, 1 month ago

GREAT SEASON COACH CHATMON AND THE INDIANS. COACH CHATMON IS THE BEST COACH IN THE CITY AND REGION 1AA. LOOK FOR THE INDIANS, WHO HAVE LESSER TALENT THAN THE OTHER ALBANY SCHOOLS, TO BE GOOD NEXT SEASON

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dominiquedamac 2 years, 1 month ago

Not really. They have the same talent as every public high school in Albany. Why do you think they beat every team in Albany? They was the best team in the city. Most of all the stars on this team are seniors so they will be gone next year. They will be rebuilding next year.

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Sister_Ruby 2 years, 1 month ago

Coach Chatmon......next time pack both sets of jerseys. Just in case. You can't ever be too prepared. No charge for the advice.

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ktthebrick 2 years, 1 month ago

Mr. Phillips, This is exactly the type of irresponsible journalism that perpetuates the attitude of " we were wronged" that is so rampant in today's society. First of all, let's be realistic. How difficult is it to take your home and away jerseys whenever you travel? Having coached and refereed basketball, I can't tell you the number of times a team has had the wrong jersey and one team has needed to change. Secondly, whose fault is it that the coach can't read a bracket? The bracket was set and has not changed- at all. The statement that Albany was moved in the bracket is just not correct. And to say that they were shocked when they were hit with the technical- really? Didn't the coach tell them he had dropped the ball by bringing the wrong jerseys, and so they were going to be hit with the technical? To then suggest that the one missed foul call was the difference maker is again just irresponsible. The officials didn't cost you the game- the inability to stop Atkins in the second half did. Please refrain from encouraging those who shout out that it must be someone else's fault every time something goes against them. Sometimes, you should just tip your hat and move on.

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coachjohnson42 2 years, 1 month ago

Coach Chatmon has always had to do more with less every since the 1980's. Most talented kids were taught to go the other 3 high schools. He still makes a strong team out of nothing. Thats why he is the Best Coach in the DCSS......Its easy to Coach a ALL STAR team....i.e. WESTOVER, and MONROE..........But try coaching a team freshly recruited from the hallway every year.........Coach Chatmon had to beg kids to try out for basketball, where the other schools have to shut the door on the kids because they had so many try out. Its another world at ALBANY HIGH.......So, again, Congrats to Coach Chatmon and those AWESOME INDIANS....

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