Playing to a standing-room only, sold out crowd, second-ranked North Cobb rallied from a 14-point second quarter deficit and a 10-point third quarter deficit and stunned host and top-ranked Tift County 68-63 in a Class AAAAAA state quarterfinal game Wednesday.
The victory sends North Cobb into the semifinals of the state playoffs for the first time in program history. The Warriors will face Norcross, which won the 2011 Class AAAAA championship, Saturday at Georgia Tech at 8:30 p.m.
North Cobb (26-4), which has won nine straight, held the Blue Devils (25-5) to 12 points below their season average and snapped their 11-game winning streak.
Lee Moore finished with 18 points, going 9-for-9 from the free throw line, had eight rebounds and six assists for North Cobb. Jon Beausejour collected 21 points, including 12 in the second half, and grabbed 12 rebounds with three assists, while Jordan Neff totaled 15 of his 22 points in the second half to go along nine boards and two steals.
Dennis Young-Coleman had seven assists for the Warriors, who converted all 15 of their free throw attempts and made nine 3-pointers.
“We knew we could do this,” said Neff, who was playing in his second full game following a left ankle injury. “Tift is a great team with great individuals, but everybody doubted us. But, we knew we could do it. We just had to play hard and play good defense
“This win is huge for North Cobb. It’s the first time the program has ever been to a Final Four. Everybody doubted us, so this is just great.”
North Cobb made the first field goal of the contest off a layup from Beausejour. However, the Warriors would not see the lead again until Leon Jordan, who finished with five points off the bench, made a 3-pointer with 5:03 left in the game that gave North Cobb a 55-54 advantage.
Between that time, Tift County found its shooting rhythm behind Brannen Greene, D.J. Bryant and Tadric Jackson. Greene, who scored 22 points along with six boards, had 10 first half points, including eight in the second period. Jackson totaled 15 points, with eight in the first quarter, and added five boards and nine assists, while Bryant had eight of his 13 points in the first half and collected six rebounds.
The Blue Devils made four first half 3-pointers en route to a 16-14 first quarter advantage and 34-23 margin at halftime.
Greene’s 3 with 3:31 left in the third quarter gave Tift County a 47-37 lead, but North Cobb slowly came back.
The Blue Devils led 52-45 entering the fourth quarter, but two free throws from Moore and a 3-pointer from Neff left the Warriors trailing 52-50 with 6:52 to play.
Neff’s dunk tied the contest at 52-all and Moore’s hustle off a steal allowed Young-Coleman to assist on Jordan’s trey that gave North Cobb its second lead of the game and first since the opening field goal.
Greene’s jumper with 2:55 remaining put Tift County back in front by two, however, Moore converted an old-fashioned 3-point play with 2:47 left for a 60-59 advantage, and his steal led to his two free throws, which put North Cobb ahead by three.
A layup from Bryant pulled the Blue Devils to within 64-63 with 40.5 seconds remaining, but Neff’s dunk off an assist from Moore gave North Cobb a three-point lead with 32 seconds left.
Young-Coleman grabbed Greene’s failed 3-point attempt, and then he drained his two free throws with 21 seconds remaining resulting in the final score.
“We had one bad stretch in the second quarter and that’s when Tift jumped out on us,” North Cobb coach Terry Gorsuch said. “We knew if we could avoid stretches like that in the second half, we’d have a chance. The seniors all stepped up and did a great job (Wednesday).
“This is great. This is the farthest we’ve gotten. These guys have worked their tails off, and the kids did a great job.”