Chattahoochee coach Chris Short thought the Class AAAAAA championship game might be decided by free throws, so he had his team spend extra time on them at practice on Friday.
That decision helped the Cougars win their first state title.
Chattahoochee made 77 percent of its free throws and that paved the way for a 69-66 overtime win over Lanier in the championship game at the Macon Coliseum on Saturday.
Chattahoochee was 21-for-27 from the line and made 9 of 12 in overtime. Lanier, which had won three straight playoff games in overtime, was only 16-for-26 (61.5 percent) from the line.
“(Lanier) has won some close games in overtime and I knew it would come down to free throws,” Short said. “We worked on that yesterday in our prep and, sure enough, we hit free throws when it mattered.”
Chattahoochee (24-7) was led by Cameron Sheffield, who had 31 points, and A.J. White, who scored 22. Sheffield was 6-for-8 on free throws and White made 11 of 12.
“We’ve done that from the free throw line,” Short said. “A.J. White consistently hit free throws in the fourth quarter and overtime and Cameron hit a couple that really sealed it for us. It’s just indicative of what we’ve been doing all year.”
Sheffield scored the first six points of the overtime to give the Cougars a lead that Lanier was never able to match. White was 4-for-4 on free throws in overtime.
“(Sheffield) has been an incredible leader for us all year,” Short said. “And for him to be the one to do it is even more special in my mind for him. I’m so proud of him as his coach.”
Lanier (26-6) was led by Sion James with 27 points and 11 rebounds, Andrew McConnell with 13 points and Iajah Phillips with 12 points.
The first half as close until midway in the second quarter when Chattahoochee got a three-play play from Cameron Sheffield and a 3-pointer from Franklin Bailey to take a 30-21 lead with 2:56 left. But Lanier outscored the Cougars 10-4 over the final stretch and cut the lead to 34-31 at intermission.
Lanier took the lead 38-36 on a 3-pointer by Goran Uzunoy and held a 47-40 advantage – its biggest lead of the game – when Uzunoy connected on another trey at the buzzer to end the third quarter.
Chattahoochee scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter to tie the game and took a 54-53 advantage on a pair of free throws by White and led 56-53 after Sheffield’s floater. But Lanier tied it when James hit 3 of 4 free throws. Chattahoochee had two shots to win the game, but both hit the rim and bounced away.
Chattahoochee (69): A.J. White 22, Cameron Sheffield 31, Franklin Bailey 10, David McDaniel 6.
Lanier (66): Andrew McConnell 13, Sion James 27, Goran Uznov 6, Iajah Phillips 12, Ryan Johnson 6, Mason Friedel 2.
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