After trailing 8-2 following the first quarter and 17-6 at the half, it looked as if Houston County was not going to repeat as the AAASP Wheelchair state champions for the eighth consecutive season. But a basket by Dylan Thomas – his only points of the game – with seconds left in overtime put the Sharks ahead 23-22 and capped off an emotional comeback victory.
"This means so much to me", said Thomas. "It's my first year with the Sharks, and this is just the greatest time I have ever had with any kind of basketball team I have ever been with."
Houston County methodically cut into the lead, but still trailed 17-11 with 3:59 left in the fourth quarter (AAASP games play six quarters). But the Sharks cut the deficit to two points, 21-19, on free throws by Orlando Hicks with three minutes left in regulation. He then stole the ball on the ensuing possession, drew an intentional foul but could not convert the free-throws. With one minute left, Houston County tied the game on a layup by Jaquavious West to force overtime.
"The thing about these kids is that they never, ever stop," said Sharks coach Christy Jones. "They never quit. They are always working hard, and they knew that we could get those shots to fall. We just had to keep working and doing it."
For Jones and the Sharks family, it was an emotion victory. This year, Jones and one of her assistant coaches both finished cancer treatment, but she didn't want their health issues to prevent her players from getting the attention they deserved.
That worry is no more.
"Both myself and another coach were diagnosed with breast cancer this year," Jones said, walking off the court with tears welling in her eyes as she gazed upon her players and their families celebrating nearby.
"We both have been going through treatment and have both been so worried about the attention we have been giving the players," she said. "For them to keep fighting and keep working, even on our bad days, and for them to come do this, this is better than any other."
Orlando Hicks led Houston County with 10 points. Jacob Stevens scored seven points, and Germir Gordon, Jaquavious West and Thomas each scored two points.
"That shot, it may have been just one shot," Thomas said of his game-winner. "But it means the world to me."
Thomas, who joined the Sharks this season, made a lasting impact early in his career with Houston County. According to Jones, it was all about recognizing opportunities, something that Houston County has worked on all season.
"We have been working all year [on that]," Jones said of Thomas' awareness on his game-winning shot. "Dylan saw that nobody had picked him up, and he recognized it and we went for it. So what we have been working on, well, worked."
Henry County was led by Kendrick Newton with 11 points. Jessie Coleman scored eight points, Logan Wegenka scored two points, and Corey Swain scored one point.
Harrison's Acampora wins girls' 3-point competition
In the inaugural GHSA girls 3-point competition, Harrison sophomore Emily Acampora took home the title after beating out Americus-Sumter senior Trinity Jones, Vidalia senior Jashiya Jones and Griffin freshman Leah Turner.
Acampora scored 19 points in the first round and 22 points in the second round to take the victory with a 41-point total, 10 points better than second place. Vidalia's Jones finished second with a 31-point total. Americus' Jones finished third and also scored 31 points, but had less (13-11) makes in the first round, which was the tie-breaker. Turner finished fourth with 24 points.