When Da’Marcus Johnson rose to take the game-winning 3-pointer as time ran out, his aim was true. And when the ball swished through the net and the horn sounded, Johnson stood with arms akimbo and stared at the crowd, almost amused that they would even doubt.
Johnson’s dagger was the deciding blow and gave No. 1 Tri-Cities a 46-43 win over No. 6 Tucker in the Class AAAAAA boys final at the Macon Coliseum. It was the school’s first basketball championship since it was created in 1988 from conglomeration of old South Fulton cage powers College Park, Russell and Hapeville.
“It feels great to see all the hard work we put in last summer pay off,” Johnson said.
Tucker had a six-point lead in the fourth quarter when their big man, Jermontae Hill, fouled out. That seemed to tilt the momentum in Tri-Cities’ direction.
The Bulldogs tied it at 41-41 with 1:08 left when Johnson was successful on the team’s third crack that possession at a trey. He launched it from the right wing and the ball caught iron, bounced high in the air and fell through.
The Bulldogs took the lead with 25 seconds left. Titus Hunter stole the ball and somehow managed to toss an outlet pass to Demetrius Rives who drove for the go-ahead layup, making it 43-41.
But Tucker, seeking third state championship, wasn’t finished. Nick Watson was fouled with 6.9 seconds left and made both free throws to tie the game at 43-43. Watson made the second free throw after being iced by Tri-Cities coach Omari Forts. That’s when Johnson got his marching orders.
“Our coach told me, if they miss the free throw don’t let them get the rebound,” Johnson said. “And if they make the free throw, he told me to hit the game winner.”
Johnson led Tri-Cities (26-6) with 13 points. Peyton Daniels added 12 points and five rebounds, and Titus Hunter had 11 points.
Tucker (28-5) got 14 points from Hill and nine points and nine rebounds from David Gideon.
Tri-Cities lead 9-6 after the first quarter, but Tucker took control early in the second period. Tucker used a 16-4 run and opened a 22-16 lead when Hill made a pair of free throws with 1:23 left. The Tigers led 22-18 at halftime.
Neither team shot it well in the first half. Tucker shot just 32 percent and Tri-Cities a click lower at 27.3 percent. Both teams enjoyed a six-point lead at some point in the opening half.
Tucker managed to rebuff all of Tri-Cities’ attempts to get back in the game in the third quarter and when Braylen Seals sliced through the defense to score on a layup with two seconds on the clock, the Tigers too a 37-30 lead into the final period.
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