When you take away all the dunks and dives and dazzle that consumed most of the 32 minutes in the Class 5A boys championship game, you’ll see that the outcome was decided by the basic skill of free throw shooting.

That was the case on Saturday night when No. 3 Tri-Cities was 9-for-10 at the line in the final minute and held off No. 1 Eagle’s Landing 67-59 before a raucous crowd at the Macon Coliseum.

The Bulldogs were 19-for-26 from the line for the game, 73% success rate. And in this case it was just the team from East Point needed.

Tri-Cities led by 11 after three quarters and had a 10-point lead with 5:03 left, but Eagle’s Landing kept coming and found itself behind by two points with 40.2 seconds remaining.

That’s when the calm of veteran Simeon Cottle took over. The Bulldogs were 9-for-10 at the line in the final minute and Cottle made five of those. He missed one, but that came with 7.6 seconds left and the game in the bag.

“I’m a big-time player, so I’ve got to make big-time plays and making your free throws is a part of it,” said Cottle, a Kennesaw State signee who was 12-for-15 from the line and scored 16 points.

Coach Omari Forts wasn’t concerned when he saw his senior shooting free throws under pressure. Cottle had a game earlier where he was 18-for-18 from the line.

“Simeon has been in big moments before,” Forts said. “He’s been to four straight Final Fours so I was confident in him.”

Eagle’s Landing’s comeback was fueled by A.J. Barnes, the Region 4 player of the year. He had 17 points, 11 rebounds and three steals – two of them he finished with dunks. The Eagles (27-4) also got 17 points, six rebounds and four steals from Jordan Fordyce, who was 9-for-11 at the line.

Tri-Cities (23-5) also got 13 points form Noricco Danner before he fouled out. Kyndon Wilburg scored nine and Ryan Mathieu had six rebounds and two blocks.

Forts was convinced his team could hold off Eagle’s Landing when the lead began to shrivel in the fourth quarter.

“Faith,” he said. “Faith and trust. They can trust one another. And a lack of ego doing whatever it takes to win. We brought a slogan from Kennesaw State which is ‘BONE’ – Be one, no ego.’ I thought that fit us and it allowed us to galvanize and focus for this game.”