Maurice Harvey’s leg was cramping so bad that he could hardly walk to the locker room after Miller Grove’s game on Thursday. But after scoring a career-high 30 points, there was no way the junior was going to miss a few minutes of post-game celebration.
Harvey was the offensive spark for the No. 3-ranked Wolverines all night as they scored a 79-75 road win over No. 2 Buford on Thursday, knocking the defending state champions out in the second round of the Class AAAAA tournament.
“He got to the rim with ease,” Buford coach Eddie Martin said. “He’s a great player. That’s why he’s their region player of the year. He’s quick, athletic and he’s got enough size to get to the rim and finish there.”
Miller Grove (21-7) will play at Dutchtown Wednesday in the quarterfinals. Dutchtown beat Statesboro 75-73 in overtime.
The Wolverines also got 14 points from Lorenzo Anderson, 12 points from Terrence Edwards and 11 points from T.J. Stargell. Jermon Clark scored only four points, but produced a tremendous defensive effort.
Buford (24-5) was led by Marcus Watson with 26 points, with Donnell Nixon (13), Alex Jones (12) and Jonathan Miles (11) all in double figures.
“It was do or die and our guys didn’t want to die,” Miller Grove coach Rasul Chester said. “They played hard, played with grit. Our guys have been through adversity.”
Buford led 38-31 at the half, but Miller Grove took command in the third quarter by dominating the boards and taking advantage of Buford’s impatience on offense. The Wolverines tied the game 41-41 with 4:28 left in the third quarter and took the lead for keeps on Harvey’s 3-pointer that put them ahead 49-46.
Miller Grove never relinquished the lead and was ahead by 10 points with 3:05, when Buford roared back to make it interesting.
Miller Grove led by two points with 4.1 seconds left when Kevin Paige missed a pair of free throws. But Buford’s two defenders didn’t block out Anderson – the only Miller Grove player lined up to rebound on the foul shot. Anderson got the loose ball and was fouled with 3.7 seconds remaining. Anderson then knocked down the two free throws to ice the game.
“For Lorenzo to come back and it those last two free throws is part of his resilience,” Chester said. “He’s a tough senior. We ride him hard. He’s not a quitter, he’s a fighter.”
Martin didn’t dispute the call. “It was a foul,” he said. “We did a poor job in that situation. They had one guy and we didn’t box him out. A two-point game with four seconds and you don’t know what’s going to happen. But we didn’t do it. We didn’t do the little things.”
Miller Grove’s quest all season has been to regain the state championship it lost a year ago. The Wolverines won the title in seven of the eight previous seasons and have almost come to have ownership of trophy. They lost in the semifinals last year and have spent the last year trying to atone for the slip.
“Now it’s on to the next round,” Chester said. “This wasn’t for the state championship. It’s just another team we had to get out of the way to get to our ultimate goal.”