Long shot Long Reach rallied in the last four minutes to erase a seven-point Brunswick lead and win the Class 1A South Region championship last night at Long Reach, 56-55.
A three-point shot by the Lightning's Robert Francois with 31 seconds left broke a 51-51 tie. And a layup by Tally White with nine seconds left provided the winning margin.
Long Reach (10-13), a first-year school that had won just seven games entering the playoffs, has no seniors. But it will play in the state semifinals at 3 p.m. or 5 p.m. Friday at Cole Field House in College Park. Brunswick's record fell to 18-8.
Neither Francois nor White, both freshmen, started the game for the Lightning. At 4 p.m. White cut the middle finger on his shooting (right) hand in a kitchen accident and the cut required seven stitches. White, who averages eight rebounds and eight points, didn't leave the hospital until 6: 30 for the 7 p.m. game and missed the first half.
White's replacement, 6-foot-3 sophomore Aaron Henry, blocked six shots and had five rebounds.
"I only started one other time this season, but I dreamt last night that we'd go to Cole. But making it a reality was real hard," Henry said.
Francois had lost his starting spot in the playoffs, but made up for it with yesterday's clutch three-point bank shot that appeared to be off the mark at first.
"I was lucky. I wanted to go to Cole so bad that when I got an open shot I just took it. I said a prayer as soon as I let it go, and God answered it. I wasn't trying to bank it," Francois said.
Freshman Devin Conwell kept Long Reach in the game in the first half by scoring 12 of his 14 points and grabbing eight of his 12 rebounds. The 6-1 player was lifted on his teammates' shoulders after the game.
"They were real big physically with three 6-foot-5 guys, and I was nervous at first, but we were much quicker and that's what won it for us," Conwell said.
Lightning junior point guard Chris Smith, who didn't score in the first half, finished with 12 points and eight rebounds. He caught the inbounds pass with 15 seconds left and made a long pass to White for the winning layup.
Long Reach entered the fourth quarter trailing, 35-30, but outscored Brunswick, 26-20, as Smith, Shawn Green and White all sank threes in that period.
Brunswick's Nathan Shanka scored 23 points, and teammate Frank Clements had 12.
Brunswick missed eight free throws in the fourth quarter, and made only six of 17 for the game.
"This was the best game we ever played," Smith said. "Our dream was just to win one playoff game. We never dreamed we could do this."