LAWRENCEVILLE — It’s already common knowledge that no team can take a night off in Region 8-AAAAAAA boys basketball.
And as was demonstrated throughout Tuesday night’s game between No. 2 state-ranked Shiloh and sixth-ranked Archer, particularly in the second half, it’s unwise for any team to take even a minute off.
The visiting Generals capitalized on a few momentary lapses from the Tigers to build seemingly-comfortable leads in the fourth quarter, and then overcame their own stumbles down the stretch to fend off a furious comeback by the hosts attempt and escape with a 59-57 win at Archer.
Anthony Canada had nine of his game-high 16 points in the fourth quarter, while Ezra Ausar also had a strong second half on his way to 13 points and seven rebounds before leaving the game with a sore ankle to help Shiloh (18-1, 5-1) maintain its share of the region lead.
But nearly letting two chances to ice the game slip away left coach Kim Rivers feeing more relieved over the result than pleased with the overall effort afterwards.
“We did just enough to win,” Rivers said. “We weren’t focused from practice (Monday), and it really showed (Tuesday). Until these guys realize that we have a chance to win a state championship or compete for a state championship, we’re going to keep giving opportunities to other teams.”
The game was a battle from the start, with neither team holding more than a four-point lead throughout the first two and a half quarters.
But with Archer (14-6, 3-3) clinging to a 37-36 lead, Shiloh began to show signs late in the third quarter of seizing control by crashing the boards on both ends of the floor after trailing the rebounding battle 16-12 at the half.
A defensive rebound by Ausar triggered a fast break that James Little finished off a nice assist from Zawdie Jackson to put Shiloh back in front at 38-37 with 2:36 left in the period.
A pair of stickbacks by Little and Ausar sandwiched around a nice high-low pass from Ausar to Jordan Mitchell for a layup to give the Generals eight straight points to end the quarter and take a 44-37 lead into the final frame.
Another bucket by Ausar 12 seconds into the fourth quarter made it a 10-0 run and pushed the lead to 46-37 before Archer began to fight back.
Areyon Johnson capped a run of six straight points with a driving layup off a feed from Christian Drummer to pull the Tigers to within 46-43 with 5:23 remaining.
That’s when Canada began to assert himself. After Johnson knocked the ball loose as Shiloh was trying to break Archer’s press, the 6-foot, 160-pound senior stayed with the play and re-stole the ball before speeding in for a layup that gave the Generals a little breathing room at 48-43 at the 4:44 mark.
A reverse layup by Caleb Golden, his only basket of the second half after scoring 11 points in the first half, and a 3-pointer by Canada capped a 7-0 run that gave Shiloh the biggest lead by either team on the night at 53-43 with 3:25 left.
But once again, Archer refused to fold, and used its smothering press to force several Shiloh turnovers led to points, with the Tigers pulling as close as three points twice, the last time at 55-52 following a driving layup from Justin Edmondson with 1:07 left.
It looked like Shiloh had weathered the storm, as the Generals solved the press enough to get to the free-throw line, where they hit 6 of 7 attempts in the final 1:21 — four by Canada and two more by Little — to again extend the lead to a seemingly-safe 59-52 with 18.9 seconds remaining.
But the Tigers had one more run left in them, with C.J. Hines knocking down a 3-pointer with 14 seconds left, and Johnson grabbing on offensive rebound for a stickback following a steal to pull to within 59-57 with 2.2 second left.
However, Shiloh was able to inbound the ball to Canada, who covered up and allowed the clock to run out before Archer could foul and finally give the Generals the hard-earned victory.
The inability to get a foul late was just one chance Tigers coach Joel Lecoeuvre felt his team let slip away, along with being outrebounded 21-12 in the second half, as well as connecting on just 5 of 12 free-throw attempts for the evening, compared to Shiloh’s 13-of-15 night at the line.
“A lot of missed opportunities, like getting steals and not converting, missed block outs, free throws and rebounds,” Lecoeuvre said. “Plays we normally make, we weren’t making. (Shiloh) does a good job defensively, and we just didn’t shoot the ball well (Tuesday).
“At the end of the day, not really playing your best game … and you still only lose by two. And I was really proud of our guys when we were down 10 with three minutes to go and we make that run and had a chance to win. There wasn’t any quit.”
Golden had six rebounds to go with his 13 points to join Canada and Ausar in double figures, while Little added eight points and Jackson chipped n four points and a game-high six assists for Shiloh.
Brent Smith led Archer with 17 points and pulled down six rebounds, while Johnson finished with 16 points and a game-high eight boards and Hines contributed 13 points.
Archer (girls) 57, Shiloh 24
Cazia Nelson scored 16 points and Taniya McGowan added 15 as the Tigers (12-8, 3-3) rolled past the Generals (5-13, 1-5).
Bailey Francis was also a force on the defensive end for Archer with five steal and six rebounds, while Maya Jackson added seven points and seven rebounds.
Philli King led Shiloh with eight points, while Drayana Cook scored six.