Albany High’s Joe Stone puts up a shot over Dougherty defenders Montrell Sisade, 33, and Telvin Smith, 44, during Saturday’s game.
ALBANY — Malik Dungee-Ali finished the night with just four points. But he made one of those passes he will never forget — one that broke Dougherty’s heart and lifted Albany High to a 51-50 win against Dougherty in overtime Saturday night in the Civic Center.
“We had to have that play,’’ Albany High coach Archie Chatmon said of Dungee-Ali’s pass to Dezmand Newberry, who was alone under the basket and dropped in the 51-50 lead with 30 seconds left in OT. “He (Dungee-Ali) has done it all year. He and Emanuel Byrd have been the glue for this team.”
So has Albany.
“This was just another one of those games,’’ Chatmon said. “Most of our wins this year have been like this. When the buzzer sounds, the other team is in distance of us. I thought we should have executed better at the end. (We found a way to win), but for a while it looked like we were finding a way not to win it.”
Still, in the end, Albany just had one more play in it than Dougherty.
“We’re battle-tested,’’ Chatmon said. ‘‘Every night is a battle for us. We couldn’t have taken better care of the ball at the end, but it showed the heart we have. They fought through it.”
It came down to the final shot over and over again in this one.
After a 44-44 deadlock in regulation, Albany built a 48-45 lead in overtime only to watch Dougherty storm back one more time, and the Trojans took a 50-49 lead when Al Brown hit a long 3-pointer with 48 seconds left. But Albany snapped right back and spread the floor on the other end until Dungee-Ali made the quick-as-lightning pass inside to Newberry who finished with 11 points and finished off the Trojans with the bank-shot.
Dougherty (3-6 and 3-5 in the region) had chances, but Brown missed a long 3 with 15 seconds left, and then missed a 3 from the corner at the buzzer to finally end it. Brown finished with six points on his two dramatic 3s.
Albany High’s young team isn’t just battle-tested. The Indians are getting older and better every night. After an 0-3 start in the region, they have now won five Region 1-AAAA games in row and are 9-5 for the season and 5-3 in the region, and ranked No. 4 in The Herald’s Fab 5 poll after beating Mitchell County last week and have won four in a row and five of the last six.
Chatmon’s worries were warranted. It looked like Albany might pull away from Dougherty in the fourth quarter.
The Indians broke free with a 7-0 run midway in the fourth to take a 39-32 lead, thanks to four free throws and an and-one play from Newberry, but Dougherty fought back, and Shun Wheeler hit a 3-pointer with 2:02 left to close to 39-38 and then hit a turnaround trey with 1:21 left to lift Dougherty to a 41-40 lead. That was just the beginning of the drama.
Newberry buried a pair of free throws to give Albany a 42-41 lead with 1:06 left, and then Ty Chester answered with a drive for Dougherty and a 43-42 lead with 54 seconds left. But Byrd, who had 11 boards and two blocks to go with his eight boards, hit an inside shot with 31 seconds left to lift the Indians to a 44-43 lead. Wheeler, who led Dougherty with 13 points, missed a 3 with 16 seconds left, but Mike Miller, who finished the night with 10 points, grabbed the rebound and was fouled on the play. He missed his first free throw but nailed his second to knot things at 44-44, and both teams turned it over in the final 10 seconds to send the game to OT.
Tyler Cheese led Albany High with 18 points, but Chatmon was right. It was more about heart than points at the end.