Albany Tech’s Tony Fear, right, drives around Chattahoochee Tech’s Darius Miller during the
first half of Tuesday’s Region XVII Tournament opener at Darton. The Titans narrowly won, 57-56. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — As soon as Chattahoochee Tech’s Devarick Houston left his feet, Jamorris Gaines knew it was over.
It took Gaines a split-second to throw up the simple pump fake, but it was that impromptu decision that kept Albany Tech’s season alive.
Gaines, a Worth County graduate, drew a foul on a 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left and hit one of three free throws to give the Titans a 57-56 win against Chattahoochee Tech in Tuesday’s opening round of the Region XVII playoffs.
“They were overplaying me all night, so I knew if I got him to bite on it I could get to the line,” Gaines said. “I knew I would at least make one of them.”
Gaines hit the second of his three free throws, and Chattahoochee Tech turned the ball over on a desperation in-bounds pass, which ended a wild, back-and-forth final minute in the Darton gym.
The No. 4 seed Titans advanced to Friday’s semifinal game against No. 1 seed and host Georgia Perimeter, which swept Albany Tech in the regular season.
GPC advanced after blowing out South Georgia Tech in Tuesday’s opening-round game.
The Titans will be looking for their first trip to a Region XVII championship game, and it was the final minutes of Tuesday’s contest that kept their season rolling. Albany Tech’s Tony Fear knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner with 2:06 left to pull the Titans to within one, and Terrell County grad Robert Ellis had a chance to give Albany Tech the lead with 53 seconds left but air balled two free throws.
With 30 seconds left, Chattahoochee Tech’s 6-foot-11 Auburn commit Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, who scored a game-high 23 points, grabbed an offensive rebound and threw down a dunk to put the Golden Eagles on top, 56-53.
After an Albany Tech turnover, Fear stole the ball back and hit a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left to tie the game at 56-56.
“He stepped into the spotlight and delivered,” Albany Tech coach Sylvester Patterson said of Fear, who finished with 11 points.
Chattahoochee Tech starting point guard Sean Tate missed two free throws with nine seconds on the clock, and Gaines grabbed the rebound, dribbled down the court and threw up his season-saving shot fake.
“He has been doing that all year,” Patterson said about Gaines, who finished with nine points and seven rebounds. “Once he gets you in the air he is going to go into you.”
Former Westover star and Herald Player of the Year Terrance Noel, who came off the bench to lead Albany Tech with 13 points, said he wouldn’t have had any other teammate step to the line in that situation than Gaines, the region’s leading scorer this season at 19 points per game.
“I knew he had three, and I knew the odds of him missing all of those were slim,” Noel said. “He made one for us and forced them to hit a shot with 1.7 seconds left.”
Chattahoochee Tech didn’t even get a shot off, and the game ended with the same final score as the Jan. 31 contest between the two teams that Albany Tech won on a half-court, buzzer-beating shot by Noel. In both of those games, Chattahoochee Tech coach David Archer said the Titans had the edge down the stretch with their athleticism.
“Albany Tech is so athletic,” Archer said. “Their guards are 6-1, 6-2 and 6-5. It gives them an advantage. We did good to hang in there. Because of their athleticism, they have a shot (at beating Georgia Perimeter).”
Georgia Perimeter has won five out of its last six heading into Friday’s semifinal game in Decatur, where the Jaguars have only dropped two games all season.
That doesn’t matter to Patterson, who got contributions from his entire bench Tuesday and is looking for another balanced effort Friday.
“Georgia Perimeter is physical,” Patterson said. “We just need a bunch of people to step up, and I think we will be there in the end.”
Albany Tech almost didn’t need Gaines’ last-second heroics with the way the Titans were clicking early in the second half. The Titans took a 40-28 lead with 15:30 left on a Noel 3-pointer, but the Golden Eagles chipped away at the lead and eventually overtook Albany Tech with six minutes left. The Titans didn’t regain the lead again until Gaines’ free throw.
Holding onto leads has been a problem all season for the Titans.
“We had been struggling this year at keeping the lead in games,” Noel said. “We just got to have that killer instinct to finish things off. Coach has been telling us that we need to be hungry for the win.”
GPC 95, SOUTH GEORGIA TECH 60: No. 8 seed South Georgia Tech had upset on its mind when it entered Tuesday’s Region XVII opener with No. 1 seed Georgia Perimeter.
The host Jaguars had none of it.
They avenged a Feb. 4 loss to South Georgia Tech and breezed into Friday’s semifinals with a 95-60 win, ending the Jets’ season at 14-17. Final stats from the game were not available at The Herald’s press time.