Seminole County coach Kevin Godwin and his guys fell a little short of the Final Four on Wednesday after a 75-70 loss to Jenkins County.
DONALSONVILLE — The way Seminole County plays offense, the Indians may have gone all season without going scoreless for four straight minutes.
But at the worst possible moment, it happened.
The Indians, just four minutes away from the school's fifth Final Four appearance, couldn’t find the bucket and went without a point the final 4:14 in a 75-70 loss to Jenkins County.
“We all thought we were going to win the ballgame,” Indians head coach Kevin Godwin said. “The last four minutes of the game we just couldn’t make the shots that we had to make. There’s just no way to explain it.”
Jenkins moves on to face Wilkinson County on Friday at 8:30 p.m. in the semifinals at Fort Valley State.
“Our kids have a lot of confidence,” Jenkins head coach Mark Whitt said. “We feel like we can beat anybody at this point — public or private.”
For Seminole, though, four minutes from the Final Four turned out to be its hex.
“I felt like crying,” Seminole senior guard Jakhari Martin said. “No idea (what happened in the last four minutes). We’ve got an Elite Eight curse. It happened in football and baseball (and now basketball).”
The Indians led, 70-62, with 4:14 to play after two Jordan Harris free throws. But the Eagles went on a 13-0 run to close the game, led by Justin Ellis. Ellis scored nine of his 20 points in the final 2:26 to help the Eagles (18-8, Class A, No. 9 seed) pull away.
“This will be our first trip as a school to the Final Four, so we’re going to make the most of it,” Whitt said.
Ellis’ 3-pointer with 2:26 left pulled Jenkins to within a basket at 70-69 after the Eagles had only led once since early in the first quarter.
He followed that with a driving layup and two free throws to go up 73-70.
Since Seminole County plays too fast to foul, the Indians had only two team fouls with less than a minute to play — and it ended up hurting them when it came to trying to stop the clock.
It took nearly 30 seconds for Seminole (22-9, Class A, No. 1 seed) to commit five fouls and put Jenkins in the bonus.
After the Eagles went up 73-70 with 22 seconds left, Martin had an open 3 from the right wing that was too strong and clanked off the iron to Jenkins County.
“I thought it was going in,” Martin said.
Ellis made two more free throws to ice it and send Jenkins County to the Final Four with eight seniors, four of which were starters.
“I know that we’re senior heavy and that really helps,” Whitt said. “Knowing that we’re down and being able to come back, that’s a huge help. Don’t take anything away from (Seminole) because they’re playing beyond their years. They’re well-coached and hustled their tail off.”
Seminole led 38-30 at the half and took a 45-32 lead on Jamal Martin’s three with 6:51 left in the third. Jenkins chipped away and eventually took a 52-51 lead on Trentin Drayton’s putback with 1:59 left in the third.
Drayton, Jenkins’ 6-foot-7 junior center, was playing with a torn ACL but still managed to dominate the glass in the third with 10 of his 15 points in the quarter.
“He alters a lot of shots if he doesn’t block them,” Whitt said of Drayton, who will have surgery after the season on his ACL. “Down the stretch we made it a priority to get in there and hold them to one shot.”
The Indians surged back and built another double-digit lead in the fourth, 64-54, on Harris’ jumper with 7:11 to play.
Then came the final four minutes and the end to the Indians’ dreams of the Final Four.
Still, playing with three starting freshmen and coming off a 10-15 season just one year ago, Seminole was left with a bittersweet Elite Eight ending at home.
“They made a believer out of me,” Godwin said. “We had some big wins this year. We did things all year that I didn’t think we could do. It was a magical year for us. For three and a half quarters (the magic was there), and then something happened and the magic wore off.”
For Martin, the lone starting senior, playing with a young group felt like family because it really was family with his cousins, Jamal and Jahmyka Pearson on the court for the wild ride in 2013.
Jenkins had four players score in double figures, led by Jamaine Torrence’s 22. Shingleton added 12 in the win.
Harris, just a freshman, led Seminole with 25. Jamal Martin added 16 in the season-ending loss, while Pearson and Robert Speights each finished with nine.