SUWANEE — As many times as Peachtree Ridge and Grayson traded leads and ties during the finale of the 2018 Jared Cook Tipoff Classic, it seemed only appropriate that the issue was still in doubt up to the final buzzer.
But a late surge, keyed by critical free throws by Kam Oyola in the final minute, was just enough for the Lions to hold on for a 57-56 victory Tuesday night at North Gwinnett High School.
Oyola was the only Peachtree Ridge (2-1) boys basketball player in double figures with 13 points, but he led a balanced effort that saw 10 different Lions score, enough to overcome a big night from the Grayson (3-1) trio of Reco Hallmon, Ian Schieffelin and Deivon Smith.
After the two teams went into halftime tied at at 26 and remained tied at 44 after three quarters, it looked like Peachtree Ridge might finally take control when B.J. Knight dished off to Christian Williams, who knocked down a 3-pointer from the right corner to give the Lions the biggest lead of the night for either team at 50-44 with 4:33 left.
But Grayson answered with an 8-2 run, highlighted by two layups in transitions by Josh Smith — his only four points of the night — to tie the game once again at 52-all after the second Josh Smith layup with just over a minute to play.
On the next trip down the court, Oyola slashed through the lane to draw a foul and get to the line, where he hit 1 of 2 free throws to put Peachtree Ridge back in front again at 53-52 with 52.6 seconds left.
Grayson quickly answered, as Josh Smith dished off to an open Schieffelin, who converted the layup to vault the Rams back in front at 54-53 with 25 seconds left.
With the game resembling a tennis match, it was Peachtree Ridge’s turn, and Oyola made sure the Lions held serve by once again getting to the line, and this time draining both ends of the ensuing 1-and-1 opportunity to regain the lead again for his team at 55-54 with 13.8 seconds left.
But there was still plenty of drama left, even after the Lions forced a Grayson turnover and Williams converted the 1-and-1 to push the Peachtree Ridge lead to 57-54 lead with 5.9 seconds left.
The Lions decided to force Grayson’s hands by fouling Hallmon just over the halfcourt line with 2.9 seconds left, with the 6-foot-5 senior hitting both free throws to pull the Rams back to within one at 57-56 with 2.9 seconds left.
A quick foul put Peachtree Ridge back on the line with 2.1 seconds left, and Grayson had one last chance when Williams missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
But the Rams were out of timeouts, and Schieffelin could only send a long outlet pass down the right wing after grabbing the rebound, and the clock ran out before anyone could get to the loose ball, allowing the Lions to hold on for the win.
While Oyola, who also led the team with four assists, was the only Peachtree Ridge player in double figures, the Lions did get nine points each from Knight (who also had six rebounds and three assists) and Williams, with Amari Davis chipping in six points and seven rebounds.
Scheiffelin and Hillman had 16 points each to lead Grayson, with Schieffelin added eight rebounds, while Deivon Smith added 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists.