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Ashville boys lose to Pisgah 85-84 in region semis


Ashville’s Nicholas Looney, left, and Damion Bothwell go up for a rebound Thursday. (Photo by Nick Johnston | Gadsden Times)


JACKSONVILLE — There never was a doubt Blake Holmes would get the ball. The question was could the Pisgah star deliver with the game on the line.

Boy, did he ever.

Holmes hit a tough up-and-under layup just before the buzzer Thursday to give Pisgah an 85-84 win over Ashville in the Class 3A Northeast Regional boys high school basketball tournament.

The 6-foot-2 senior guard scored 39 points in the win, but he wasn’t sure about his final shot until it rolled through the rim.

“I thought I missed it, but it bounced and somehow rolled over the rim and hit off the backboard and went in,” said Holmes, who has scored more than 1,200 points in his high school career. “It was probably the scariest moment of my life. I’ve never hit a buzzer beater to win a game this big. It was intense.”

Though the buzzer went off after the shot, officials put one second back on the clock to give Ashville one last chance. The length-of-the-court pass was intercepted by — you guessed it — Holmes and the Bulldogs (19-12) never got a shot off.

It set off another celebration for the Pisgah faithful, who also went wild at Pete Mathews Coliseum when Holmes’ layup dropped through the rim.

But it was the other side of the gym that had reason to celebrate just seconds before.

Trailing 83-81, Ashville’s Ray Harris made a pressure-packed 3-pointer from the corner to give the Bulldogs the lead with 10 seconds to go.

Pisgah called a timeout to set up a final play.

“We had drawn it up to where we’d try to get the thing to Blake and I told him, ‘We’re down one, get to the basket and shoot a layup,’” Pisgah (17-10) coach Woody Beard said. “It was very physical and he had a hard time getting to the basket. But he managed to get there and finished it. It took a lot of strength and focus.”

With Ashville playing man defense, it took until Pisgah got across halfcourt to get the ball in Holmes’ hands at the wing. He darted inside, challenged Ashville big man Damien Bothwell and somehow got the underhanded shot away for the victory.

“We were trying to put a lot of pressure on the ball,” Ashville coach Anthony Rice said. “We didn’t want him to get that deep, obviously. We should have had help-side (defense). We knew he was the one they wanted to shoot it, (No.) 23 is pretty much their best player. We should have stopped the ball (and) we didn’t.”

It didn’t help that both Marcellus Brown and Alex Looney had fouled out.

“Seeing how they’re my two best defensive players, it hurt pretty bad,” Rice said. “But that’s part of the game. (If) they foul out, you’re supposed to have somebody step up and take their place.

“We have seven seniors, that’s their job. We have to play every second, every minute of every game, and that’s been our motto all year.”

Ashville trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half, but a 15-4 run in the second quarter helped the Bulldogs take their first lead of the contest. A jumper by Darryl Weeks, who scored 17 points off the bench, gave Ashville a 30-29 advantage with 4:36 remaining in the first half. Ashville led by as many as five points in the first half, but Pisgah rallied and stretched its lead to nine in the third quarter.

The Bulldogs never seemed to get discouraged, though.

“We’ve played a lot of close games all year,” Rice said. “That kind of prepared us for where we’re at right now. We gave ourselves a chance to win.They’re never going to quit.”

Weeks’ two free throws with 4:45 remaining gave Ashville a 75-70 lead. The Bulldogs did not trail again until Holmes’ jumper with 48 seconds remaining to give the Eagles an 83-81 advantage. That led to Harris’ 3-pointer and set up the dramatic final sequence.

Bothwell scored a team-high 23 points and pulled down 12 rebounds for the Bulldogs. Harris and Brown both scored 10 points.

Dillon Demarco had 14 points for the Eagles.

Pisgah advanced to play Holly Pond in Saturday’s regional championship game. Holly Pond knocked off Weaver 72-65 in overtime earlier Thursday.