Ware County battled back from a nine-point deficit over the final two minutes to force overtime, but seven turnovers in the four-minute extra session Monday night doomed the Gators in a 60-54 loss to Coffee. Brandon Washington’s two free throws with 22.8 seconds remaining in the February 13 first round game evened the score with fourth-seed Coffee (13-12) at 49-apiece. The two teams swapped steals in the last 11 seconds with the Trojans’ theft and potential game-winner from 10 feet at the buzzer clanking off the iron. Coffee scored the first four points off an offensive rebound and a driving layup for a 53-49 lead. Twice in a 1:03 span the third-seed Gators (7-15) would get to within two, the first at 53-51 with 2:42 to play on two free throws by Washington (12 points) and at 55-53 on a steal and layup by Glendon Hadden (team-high 20 points) with 1:39 remaining. The Trojans stretched the lead out to 60-53 as Ware County had four consecutive empty possessions, three ending with turnovers ending its bid for a state playoff berth and its season with a ninth consecutive loss. Coffee advances to face top-seed Greenbrier (16-9) in Thursday’s first semifinal game at 5:30 p.m., on the Liberty County High School campus. The 8:30 p.m. second semifinal game has second-seed Bradwell Institute (14-8) squaring off against the winner of No. 3 Statesboro and No. 6 Jenkins of Savannah. The two combatants were nearly an hour behind schedule in tipping Monday night. Originally scheduled for 8:30 p.m., the game started at approximately 9:25. Coffee 60 Gators 54, OT The Trojans spotted Ware County a quick eight-point advantage, battled back to build a nine-point lead late, withstood a furious late rally and survived to advance in overtime. Hadden (four treys) sandwiched a pair of long-distance jumpers around two free throws by Dedric Jackson (six points) in the first three minutes helping the Gators to an 8-0 lead. Hadden’s third trey of the period gave Ware County a final eight-point margin at 13-5 with 2:33 on the clock. Coffee chipped away at the 15-8 first quarter deficit pulling to within 16-15 just two minutes into the second period. The margin swayed between one and three points until 1:53 remained the half. The Trojans’ Junitho Brinson (game-high 22 points) scored on a third consecutive putback of an offensive rebound giving Coffee its first lead at 23-22 en route to a 27-23 halftime lead. Ware County opened the third quarter with an 8-2 spurt to recapture the lead at 31-29 with 3:53 remaining on the clock. Two free throws by Hadden gave the Gators the advantage. Brinson’s layup 15 seconds later tied the game for the first time at 31-apiece igniting an 11-2 run to the buzzer. Jydarius Odums’ steal and layup put the Trojans back in front 33-31 with the last lead change of the night with 2:33 remaining in the period. Down 40-33 with eight minutes remaining, baskets by Tayshaun Franklin (six points) and Te’Zhan Bolds (two points) got the Gators quickly to within 40-37. An 8-2 spurt by Coffee over a span of 2:24 pushed the margin to its biggest of the night at 48-39 with 3:15 to play. Consecutive treys by Hadden and Damion Williamson (six points) cut the deficit to 48-45 with 1:27 remaining. Franklin’s offensive rebound and putback with just under a minute to play pulled Ware County to within 48-47. Coffee’s Odum hit one of two free throws with 37.7 seconds to play for a two-point lead. Washington was fouled on a drive to the basket and calmly hit both free throws with 22.8 seconds remaining to even the score for a second time at 48-all setting a final frantic closing.
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