A game that seemed well in hand for the Trojans, quickly turned as the Eagles’ offense went on a feverish run.
Etowah’s Damola Awe-Olaleye made a layup, drew a foul and made the subsequent free throw with 29.2 seconds left in the third to ignite a 27-10 run for the Eagles, who outscored Lassiter 31-16 in the fourth quarter.
Etowah’s Destin Porche, who scored 15 of his 18 points in the fourth, connected on three 3-pointers in the period, including two in the first 3½ minutes, to pull the Eagles (9-10, 3-5) to within 62-48.
A layup from Lassiter’s Justin Hahn, who scored 14 points and added 17 rebounds, two assists, two steals and three blocked shots, moved the deficit back to 18 with 2:56 left in the contest, but a jumper from Porche sparked a 13-0 run and left the Eagles trailing 70-65 with 54.6 seconds remaining.
Porche nailed a 3 following his jumper, and Awe-Olaleye added six points during the run to give Etowah, which sank seven 3-pointers in the game and five in the fourth quarter, a chance at a big come-from-behind victory.
Lassiter (10-10, 4-4), however, got help from Juwan Dickey, Niles Clark and Adam Dowell, who each made two free throws in the final 45 seconds of the game to seal the victory. The Trojans made 17 of 20 free throws for the game.
Dickey made 11 of 12 free throws and scored a game-high 31 points to go with nine rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots. He had 14 points in the first half, including eight in the second quarter.
Clark contributed 14 points and four assists for Lassiter, which has won nine of its last 12 games after a 1-7 start.
“Etowah knocked down a bunch of 3s, and we didn’t contest them late in the game,” Lassiter coach Jeremy Morris said. “We kept turning the ball over, and they made shots. Give Etowah credit, they played hard.
“At the end, we felt like, if we could make our free throws and make it a three-possession game, then we could relax a little. (Etowah) missed some chances there towards the end and they had to foul us. We shot well from the free-throw line, and that helped us.”
Lassiter led 18-14 at the end of the first period, 39-26 at halftime and 60-38 entering the fourth quarter. The Trojans outscored the Eagles 21-12 in each of the second and third periods and led by double digits for the majority of the game.
“We just didn’t start the game with any energy,” Etowah coach Don Hurlburt said. “To our kids’ credit, the last 6 minutes of the game, they played hard. Prior to that, I thought Lassiter played a lot harder than we did.
“The only thing we can take out of this is that we did come back. This team has struggled all year long with starting from the opening tip to the closing bell, playing with focus and energy like we played the last 5 or 6 minutes. That’s the way it is. There’s no quit in us. We’re not going to quit. Unfortunately, it took us 27 minutes to figure that out.”
Awe-Olaleye finished with 22 points and seven rebounds, while Harrison McLeod had 10 points. Derrico Peck contributed 13 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals for Etowah.
Lassiter 43, Etowah 40: August Wolfe missed the game-tying 3-pointer with 5 seconds remaining in the game, and the Lady Trojans held on for the Region 5AAAA win.
Lassiter (4-15, 1-6) snapped a seven-game losing skid and won its first region game since beating Pope 42-37 on Feb. 12, 2010.
“We knocked down shots and played outstanding defensively,” Lassiter coach Stephen Cosgrove said. “We rotated better and that gave us the opportunity to contest more shots. Our freshman, Rebecca Patton, was a big spark for us off the bench.”
Lassiter trailed 39-34 with less than 5 minutes to play, but the Lady Trojans outscored the Etowah (7-12, 2-6), which has lost six of seven, 7-1 down the stretch. Gabby Garza, who finished with nine points, connected on two free throws with 1:01 left in the contest to give Lassiter a 41-40 lead.
A free throw from Maeve Vitale with 30 seconds on the clock, and a free throw from Mackenzie Kayler with 10 seconds remaining, moved Lassiter’s margin to three. Etowah’s only point during the stretch was a free throw from Wolfe with 2:50 left in the contest.
Vitale, who made 11 of 15 free throws, scored 14 of her game-high 19 points in the second half. Patton had three points and Murphy Davis added six.
Taylor Kimber scored nine of her 12 points in the second half to lead Etowah. Tori Janos had nine and Scotlyn James had eight.
Lassiter led 32-29 entering the final period.