The game was tied, and the way Warner Robins was handling the possession, overtime was imminent.
In fact, heroics were imminent.
When it looked like nobody really wanted the ball, Jacolbey Owens took it, went to the top of the key, jumped amid a Miller Grove defender, and drained the 3-pointer to – after 1.3 more seconds and no final shot – give Warner Robins a 67-64 win Thursday over Miller Grove for the GHSA Class 5A state title at the Macon Coliseum.
“We really didn’t have a game plan,” said Owens, who finished with a game-high 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting. “We were gonna call timeout, but I got him up in the air, I shot, and it went in.
Head coach Jamaal Garman said there was, in fact, a plan.
“We were gonna run the clock down, and get it to either Nelson (Phillips) or (Ja)Colbey. We ran it down, got it to Nelson, Nelson gave it right back to Champ (Dawson), Champ gave it to Colbey, Colbey just did his magic.”
Miller Grove did everything right on the last play as Warner Robins passed the ball around, fairly tentatively and making no moves to the basket.
“We stretched ‘em out,” Miller Grove head coach Rasul Chester said. “We didn’t want them to get close to the basket.”
Owens got the ball on the right wing, about 40 feet from the basket, dribbled to the top of the key, stopped, faked as Timothy Stargell Jr. went a step too far, went up – as did Stargell – and let it fly.
“We went out, made sure we got to the shooter,” Chester said. “He heaved up a shot, a contested shot, and it fell for them.”
Officials added 1.3 seconds, but the Wolverines couldn’t get a shot off.
Owens was still a little stunned afterward, his eyes moist.
“Great moment,” he said. “First (title) in history.”
The Wolverines, whose streak of six straight state titles was broken by the Demons in a 2015 quarterfinal, trailed 49-39 after a flurry by Warner Robins with six points in 34 seconds in the third quarter.
The margin slowly dropped as the teams went through frenetic spells. A six-point Warner Robins lead was gone on Terrence Edwards’ pull-up 14-footer, tying it at 60 with 3:02 left in the game.
The Demons led by four, and then it was tied after four straight free throws and a poor Warner Robins shot.
Warner Robins inbounded the ball with 51 seconds left, and didn’t seem comfortable or confident during the possession, killing time while Miller Grove played a prevent defense, but couldn’t prevent Owens from draining the dream shot.
That the Demons were down only two at halftime was fairly surprising.
For one, Phillips got off to a poor start, shooting 3 for 8 and not scoring for awhile, all his misses coming on 3s.
For another, the Demons were rough at the line, going only 9 for 18, with a lane violation thrown in.
Neither team took much advantage of a sluggish shooting start, Miller Grove 12 for 30 and Warner Robins 10 for 30. The Demons missed all seven first-half 3-pointers and the Wolverines were 2 for 6.
The Demons, though, had an 8-0 edge in points off turnovers, mostly in the second quarter when they got back in the game. They finished with an 18-3 lead in the category.
And Warner Robins put two fouls on six Miller Grove players in the first half.
Then things changed. The Wolverines started struggling at the line and the Demons got their aim.
Warner Robins improved to 13 for 18 at the line in the second half while Miller Grove was 11 for 16. The Wolverines avoided fouling anybody out, but the Demons were 22 of 36 at the line to 16 of 24 for Miller Grove.
Phillips managed 16 points and 10 rebounds while Jaydon Norman had 13 points.
Lorenzo Anderson had 19 for Miller Grove, Maurice Harvey scoring 14 to go with 10 rebounds, and Edwards 11 points.
Owens, ironically, struggled to a 7-for-14 night on free throws, but drained the toughest and most clutch shot of his life.
“It’s going to be him more than anybody else,” Garman said of the tough game-winner. “Nelson doesn’t make those kinds of shots, Jacolbey does, and he made that shot today, and it was great.”