By Brad Harrison
The Macon Telegraph
With a history between the two teams in the past few years, it came as little surprise to Rutland when Crisp County rallied from nearly 20 points down to trail by only four points in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s GHSA Class AAAA state tournament game.
With their dreams of advancing to the Final Four at stake, the Hurricanes responded, coming up with offensive answers on multiple occasions during the final four minutes of the game to win 88-77. The victory advances Rutland to the quarterfinal round, where it’ll host Jonesboro on Thursday. The Hurricanes (24-5) lost in the quarterfinals a year ago to Statesboro.
“Those guys are going to play us hard, no matter what,” Rutland head coach Ron Christian said of Crisp County. “They didn’t give up and I like the fact that they didn’t. It made us have to endure some stuff.”
Jaylon Tyson and Tylik Evans proved to be defensive headaches for Crisp County. Tyson scored 27 points to go with the 19 of Evans.
Rutland ran into adversity with a 17-point lead in the third quarter. Ahead 49-32, Shakenneth Williams, a vital part of the Hurricanes efforts close to the boards, left the game with an apparent sprained ankle. The Cougars (16-14) slowly took advantage, grabbing an edge in the paint to make up some ground through offensive rebounds in addition to a handful of clutch outside shots.
“We were missing one of our senior leaders,” Christian said of Williams. “He’s a workhorse. When you are missing that, some things take a toll. ”
A 12-1 run in which Davion Harvey and Javoris Cooks drained 3-pointers to go with offensive putbacks by Harvey and Condell Woodson shrunk the Rutland lead to 65-61 with 4:47 to play in the game.
Cooks led Crisp County with 27 points.
“That’s one of the best compliments a coach can get, that your kids play hard,” Crisp County head coach Terry Smith said. “We cut it to four and just came out on the band end of two possessions and they capitalized on it.”
The Hurricanes, however, came up with offensive scores multiple times. And as expected, Tyson and Evans played large roles.
Evans drained a pair of free throws to get the Hurricanes back into the scoring column. Then, after Tyson’s lay-up and free-throw shot, Evans drew a foul, sinking a pair of foul shots to end a quick 7-0 run that moved Rutland further ahead, 74-63 with 3:24 to play.
“Our guys came back. We took a timeout, they settled down and we focused on what needed to be done,” Christian said. “We made them take bad shots and started boxing out and getting the rebound.”
Still, Crisp didn’t bow out quietly. As late in the game as 1:53 remaining, the Cougars trailed by single digits, down 80-71. But ill-timed turnovers, combined with Evans and Tyson scoring seven of Rutland’s nine points in the final two minutes, help close out the victory. A lay-up by Evans made the score 82-71. Crisp County never trailed by single digits following the score.