BUFORD — After winning the first region title in its history last season, the Lanier boys basketball program had a more challenging road in 2020-21 thanks to some new additions with Georgia High School Association reclassification.
Despite that, the Longhorns maintained their status atop Region 8-AAAAAA on Saturday at Buford City Arena with a 55-54 win over Shiloh in the region tournament finals. They had to survive three attempts at game-winning shots in the final 10 seconds from the Generals to get their championship.
“I think it’s the toughest region in the state in all honesty,” Lanier boys coach Branden Mayweather said. “Shiloh, Winder, Buford, it’s unreal. So to win this, it means a lot. … These guys had so much pressure just from last season because everybody automatically assumes you’re going to go back to Macon (for the state finals). They don’t realize all the steps and the bumps in the road before that. This one means more to me than I think last year just because it was so hard to get back here.”
The final was evenly played as expected between teams that split in the regular season. Lanier (18-6) got up by eight with a run early in the fourth quarter, but Shiloh (19-5) came charging back as the fourth quarter came down to a duel of elite guards Andrew McConnell of Lanier and Devon Barnes of Shiloh.
McConnell scored 16 of his 24 points in the second half, including a pair of big 3-pointers in a 10-point fourth quarter. Barnes had 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and also had two huge 3-pointers.
“Devon Barnes, he was unreal, I think he had 14 or 16 in the fourth quarter,” Mayweather said. “It was crazy. They’re two big-time players. Andrew McConnell, region player of the year, he played like it tonight.”
Lanier went ahead 55-49 on two free throws from McConnell with 2:22 left, but it didn't score again as it held off a push by Shiloh. Barnes made two free throws to trim the lead, then converted a three-point play with 1:18 left to get within 55-54.
Slater then made a steal and raced down court for a transition layup, but Lanier's Iajah Philips tracked the play down for a critical blocked shot from behind. The Generals maintained possession with 26 seconds left, and they got several more cracks at a win.
Barnes had the first shot that just missed, and after a scramble for the rebound, Trevon Payton was off on a long 3-pointer. Barnes got the ball back from one more shot that wouldn't fall as time expired.
The Longhorns got eight points and six rebounds from Phillips, and 10 points and six rebounds from Jayce Nathaniel. Justin Birch added eight points and a pair of 3-pointers.
Shiloh’s Seryl Slater (11 points), Payton (nine points on three 3-pointers) and Dantarius Williams (eight points) back up Barnes’ big night.
Lanier hosts South Paulding in the first round of state next week, and Shiloh hosts Dalton.
Buford boys 83, Winder-Barrow 81 (3OT)
Buford’s boys outlasted Winder-Barrow for an 83-81 victory in three overtimes Saturday, claiming third in the 8-AAAAAAA Tournament.
Caleb Blackwell was fouled with 5.4 seconds left in the third overtime, and sank both for the winning margin. A 3-pointer attempt by Winder-Barrow was off the mark as time expired. The Bulldoggs tied the score at 81-81 when Buford fouled Wyatt Fricks on a 3-point shot and the senior made all three.
Buford (18-7) rallied at the end of regulation to force overtime, tying the score on London Williams putback with six seconds left in the fourth quarter. Winder-Barrow missed on a 3-pointer as time expired in the fourth.
Blackwell had potential game-winning jumpers as time expired in each of the first two OT periods, but neither went down.
Williams led Buford with 24 points, and Blackwell scored 24. Marc Mauge had 19 points, and Alahn Sumler added 13 points.