Deerfield's Knights fell one win shy of their season-long goal Saturday night when they lost to Loganville Christian in the GISA Class AAA title game, 74-65. (Larry G. Williams/Special to The Herald)
MACON -- Deerfield-Windsor’s magical season ended late Saturday night in pain and left the Knights shaking their heads and counting free throws instead of sheep as the nightmare game they had avoided all season finally ended a remarkable run and a memorable year.
“Free throws. They’re free. That‘s why they call them free throws,’’ DWS coach Gordy Gruhl said in the wake of a 74-65 loss to Loganville Christian in the GISA Class AAA state title game late Saturday night at Mercer’s Hawkins Arena, where the Lions roared from the free throw line all night and DWS missed its fair share (14 of 26). “You’ve got to make people earn their points.’’
By the time it was over, Loganville had made 28 of 36 free throws and stunned GISA's No. 1-ranked Deerfield team that waited all night for a run that never came.
“It just seemed like every time we would make a run we would make a mistake,’’ said Ramello Carter, who saw his brilliant career end on a night when he tried to carry DWS to its second title in three years. He was a freshman and the sixth man on the last DWS team to win it all in 2010.
He wanted this one far, far more.
It showed. Carter, who had lifted the Knights into the final with a game for the ages Friday when he rallied DWS from 13 points down in the final four minutes to beat Dominion Christian, scored 32 points in his final night as a Knight.
“We had one goal,’’ Loganville coach Mark Davis said. “And it was to stop (Carter). We didn't do a very good job of it. He is really tough.’’
Gruhl praised Carter for his effort and his heart, and agreed that Loganville couldn't stop his all-state guard.
“But they stopped everybody else,’’ Gruhl said. “No one else stepped up to help Ramello. We just made too many mistakes. We shot ourselves in the foot over and over again. We didn't play very well. We played hard, but we didn't play well.
“Those guys make you pay when you make a mistake, and we made a bunch of them.’’
DWS, which rode a 19-game winning streak into the title game and finished the season at 24-4, never had the lead. And that's after storming back with an inspirational 21-0 run that lifted the Knights past Dominion Christian in the semifinals just 24 hours earlier. That was a run for the ages.
The run on Saturday never came.
DWS was down, 23-16, after one and trailed, 41-32, at halftime after watching the Lions make 5 of 9 3-pointers in the first half to build their lead. They just kept coming, hitting big shots and dropping in free throws and took a 55-42 lead into the fourth quarter.
DWS cut the lead to 60-56 with a 14-5 run to open the fourth when Dee Barber hit a 3 with 3:35 left in the game. But Caleb Boykin, who was so sick he had to take an IV late Friday to help him overcome the flu, took over and hit a baseline shot and then buried a 3 with 2:13 left to lift Loganville to a 67-61 lead. It was the seventh 3 of the night for the Lions, who lived on the long ball and free throws.
“We watched Deerfield, and what we saw was that when Deerfield would make its run at teams they would back down, and we made up our minds that when they made a run we would not slow down but keep attacking and keep scoring,” Davis said. “I think that was the key. That was one of the best games we played all year.’’
Gruhl said DWS killed its own runs with breakdowns.
“We didn't get stops,’’ he said. “We couldn't make a run because defensively we had too many breakdowns. They’re quick, and we just continued to put them on the free throw line. We knew that had shooters who were 85 percent from the free throw line, but we just kept putting them there.”
Carter said the same thing.
“We made fouls 80 feet from the basket,’’ he said. “If we would have kept them off the free throw line we would have easily beaten this team.’’
Seth Dossett, who made 7 of 8 from the line in the final minute to ice the game away, led the Lions (24-3) with 23 points. Boykin scored 19 and Blake Odgers added 15 on the strength of four 3s.
“It hurts,’’ said Gruhl, who has won more than 1,000 games and four boys state titles and two more with the girls team in his career. “It just hurts…
DWS loses nine seniors, including Weston King, who had 10 points and nine rebounds. Dee Barber score 11 for DWS and Christian Wallace, a sophomore, added seven points. Senior Sam Shellhaas had a solid night, doing a little of everything by grabbing five rebounds, making four steals, handing out three assists and scoring four points. Other seniors who leave include Pete Langstaff, Jason Battle, Kh’Ron McClain, John Germany, KE’Marvin Pitts and Zach Jarzin.