Lafayette Co. narrowly defeats Drew Central
Jerry Johnson stepped to the free throw line Friday night with less than one second remaining and a chance to win the game, but converted only two of his five attempts as Drew Central dropped a home game to Lafayette County 42-41.
"I'm not disappointed with our effort," said head coach Tad Davis after the loss. "I thought our boys played hard. We made some mistakes, but we played our guts out."
Johnson shouldn’t even have been in the position he was in.
Lafayette County led 42-39 after Chris Mauls stole a Drew Central inbounds pass, was fouled and made a free throw with 0:09 left to play in the game.
Jonathan Bentley missed an open look at a three-pointer to tie, and then Johnson was fouled just before time expired on what would have been a desperation shot.
Lafayette County’s LaDarien Briggs was called for the foul on Johnson, voiced his frustration with the call and was subsequently slapped with a technical foul for his efforts.
That set the stage for Johnson’s free throw attempts, but also gave Drew Central possession with just enough time to catch and shoot before the final buzzer.
Bentley missed a half court heave as the buzzer sounded.
Everything was going right for the Pirates early in the ballgame.
University of Arkansas football signee, Rickey Hughey, a 6’5”, 220-pound center for Lafayette County, picked up his third foul at the 2:55 mark in the first quarter and was forced to the bench.
"Getting (Hughey) in foul trouble early was big," Davis said. "There's no doubt, he's a good player, a Division 1 prospect in football. He's a heck of an athlete. He's one of those guys you plan a game around.
"I told our guys coming in that we wanted to get the ball inside to the man that he was defending to try and get him into foul trouble. We did a good job with that."
Terrance Newman gave Drew Central an 8-5 lead on its next offensive possession, then dunked on a fast break created by a Lafayette County turnover near mid-court to push the Pirates to a 12-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Drew Central only managed three field goals in the second quarter, one a 3-pointer from Johnson to give the Pirates a 15-13 lead with 5:24 to go in the half.
Despite Hughey’s absence because of foul trouble, Lafayette County dominated Drew Central on the boards in the second quarter, and gained the halftime advantage 23-19.
Newman pulled the Pirates within two with a lay-up in transition less than a minute into the second half.
The Cougars continued to out-rebound Drew Central in the second half, netting four consecutive second chance points to push Lafayette County’s lead to its largest margin at 27-21 with 3:55 to play in the third quarter.
But the Pirates closed the gap on a Matt McKeown putback and jumpers from Johnson and Derrick Williams to trail 29-27 at the end of the period.
Lafayette County again stretched its lead to six points in the fourth quarter, but back-to-back threes from Newman and Bentley knotted the score at 35-35 with just over four minutes remaining.
Drew Central’s last lead came on Newman’s fast break lay-up with 2:12 to play.
Hughey countered with a baseline jumper at the other end seconds later to tie the game at 39-39.
D.J. Ward put the Cougars up for good when he cashed in on a Newman turnover at the top of the key with just under a minute to play.
The loss notched Drew Central a third place finish in the regular season conference standings - a position Davis feels pretty good about.
"This team really came together at the end of the season. We lose to this team by one point in our gym, and we lose to Parkers Chapel in overtime on a buzzer-beater, so we're just two games from being in a three-way tie for first.
"We've got the district tournament coming up," Davis added, "and there's not a team in the tournament that we can't beat."