On one of the most important nights in the life of Lee-Davis High School athletics, their much-maligned boys basketball team refused to let another win slip away.
Spending much of the game playing from behind, the Confederates found a way to take the lead late and hold on to defeat archrival Atlee Friday night, 43-42.
“Tonight was a good win against a good team,” said Lee-Davis head coach Rob Rice. “I don’t care what their record is, they’re a good team, with a great coach. And Miller, in my mind, is Player of the Year. I don’t want to see him again this year.”
Rice was referring to Brian Miller, the do-everything Atlee guard who, again, led the Raiders in scoring with 19 points. Credit, though, goes to the Confederates’ defense for holding Miller to just six in the second half, which, in part, helped Lee-Davis chip away at the Raiders’ long-held advantage.
Atlee took the lead early, but Lee-Davis cut it to two just before the end of the first quarter. R.J. Jenkins, though, launched a 55-foot shot from just behind the midcourt stripe at the buzzer, and hit nothing but net to make it 15-10 Raiders after one.
Lee-Davis shook that off, going on a 7-0 run to start the second, tying the game at 17. From here to halftime, Atlee played arguably its best defense of the night, holding the Confederates to four points in five and a half minutes, building the advantage to 29-21 at intermission.
Atlee held a six- to 10-point advantage through much of the third quarter, but late in the session the tide began to turn. Led by the outside shooting of Irving Jones, the free throw shooting of Ladarein Autry, and the timely shooting of Rondell Ramsey, the rest of the game would belong to Lee-Davis.
They cut the lead to two at 36-34 after three periods, then frustrated the Atlee offense possession after possession, limiting the Raiders to six fourth-quarter points. The Confederates also, smartly, decided to run time off the clock to limit Miller’s future chances at creating offense for Atlee.
Out of a Rice timeout, Lee-Davis designed a play inside for Tariq Caldwell, whose bank shot fell to make it 43-40. Stephen Hurd answered with an offensive rebound and putback for the Raiders with 3:05 to go, making the score 43-42.
As it turned out, in the final, and furious, 185 seconds, neither team scored. Lee-Davis ran the spread offense, knocking time off the clock, but eventually losing the ball. Miller tried to take matters into his own hands, racing down the court when Andrew Dages stole an Autry pass. Miller’s shot was no good, but he drew a foul on Jones.
But Miller, almost automatic from the charity stripe, as Lee-Davis’ “The Asylum” student section roared in his ears, missed both shots. Hurd grabbed the rebound, and Atlee head coach Phil Reynolds called timeout. The Raiders had a prayer.
Atlee ran their play, but a tight triangle defense down low by the Confederates confused and frustrated the Raiders, forcing them to call timeout again with 9.1 seconds left to work up “Plan B.”
Miller was an obvious first option, but Jarris Hendricks was open. His three-pointer from the right wing was off the mark. Atlee fought for yet another offensive rebound. The ball went out of bounds off Lee-Davis, but the clock read :00.1. There was only time left for a miracle tip-in off an inbounds pass.
Caldwell ensured that would not happen, swatting the pass down and setting off the Confederate celebration. Lee-Davis moved to 4-8, finally nailing down a close win after heartbreaking losses this season to the likes of Glen Allen, Banner Christian, and Manchester in overtime.
“That was the longest nine seconds of my career,” Rice said with a smile.
Of note was the defensive play of sophomore Nick Reisenweaver, who played much of the fourth quarter on Miller with four fouls and did not foul out.
Atlee left the gym with its most disappointing loss in what has become an 11-game losing streak after beginning the season 2-0. Jenkins and Hurd each had eight points in the loss.
The level of play, the tenacity showed just reminded Rice anew of how deep, how difficult it is to still be playing a “Capital District” schedule, though the district is extinct.
“People just don’t understand how deep the district is,” Rice said. “People look at our records and think we’re not good teams, but I’ll tell you what, we compete against the best every night.”
In the first game of the night, the Atlee girls improved to 8-4 as Cierra Shelton had 22 points, Ashley Weaver 19 as the Raiders ran away in the second half for a 59-35 win over the Confederates. Lee-Davis was led by Imani Boothe with 10 points.
Earlier in the evening, a dinner and induction ceremony was held for the inaugural class of the Lee-Davis High School Athletics Hall of Fame. The five inductees received their Hall of Fame plaques at halftime of the boys game.
The Lee-Davis DECA Club held their second “Crusade Against Cancer” at the games Friday, selling special game T-shirts and accepting donations for the American Cancer Society. After the games, they announced they were just $162 short of their year-long goal to raise $3,000 for cancer cure research.