This is getting to be a painful habit for the Lewisville Lions, and sooner or later you would think all this suffering will pay off in a big way for Mike McCray and his bunch.
Last season, the Lions came within an eyelash of pulling off a magical comeback within the last three minutes of the state championship game. They were still down nine in that one, with a little over a minute to play, and lost an agonizingly close 72-71 nail-biter due to too many missed free throws.
Free throws were not the problem Friday night In Greenville’s Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Lewisville hit 7 of 10 in the first half, and finished a respectable 13-for-20. Ridge-Spring-Monetta, on the other hand, struggled at the stripe, going 3-for-9 in the second half, including 0-for-3 in the fourth period.
Friday night it was buzzer-beaters, with one player involved in four of them. The Lions pretty much controlled the first half, leading by as many as 13. At the end of the first quarter, Lewisville led 23-11 after a 7-0 run. But junior Trojan guard Jerry Tyler scored four straight to end the first eight minutes, with one of those buckets coming on a layup just before the horn, to cut the lead to 23-15. Tyler had eight in the frame.
The Lions lead grew to 36-23 in the second period, but the Trojans ran off six straight. Tyler would hit a three-pointer just before the end of the half, and Lewisville’s lead was only 40-33 at the halftime break. It felt like it should have been larger.
The Trojans outscored the Lions 17-8 in the third period, with Tyler who would lead all scorers with 23, pacing their effort with seven more tallies.
Lewisville still held a tenuous 48-46 lead in the final minute, but the Trojans scored the final four to grab their first lead since the opening moments of the game. Once again, it was Tyler who scored the final bucket just before the quarter buzzer for a 50-48 advantage.
There were seven ties and five lead changes in the second half. Seniors Mikial Fourney and Devon Busby had 16 and 10 points respectively for the Lions. Four Trojans were in double figures.
Sophomore Demetric Hardin, who had 13 points, gave the Lions a 58-56 edge with 1:30 to play in the game, but Tyler took the inbounds and drove the length of the floor for a layup that would tie the game at 58 and set the stage for the dramatic final moments and one last buzzer-beater.
Lewisville held for one last shot but missed with about 10 seconds to play. It was Tyler again who secured the rebound and once again drove the length of the court. This time his layup attempt missed, but senior post player Melvin Alewine gathered in the rebound and his putback fell through the net as the clock ticked 0:00 to send the Trojans sprinting down the court in celebration of an Upper State title, and the Lions to the floor in shock at another buzzer-beater and another heartbreaking near-miss in their quest for a state championship.
There are no magic words for a coach to give his players when they are hurting, but Lewisville coach Mike McCray gave it his best shot.
“I just told them things like this happen to prepare you for something bigger in life,” McCray said. “Life just doesn’t stop here because of a loss. I just told my guys to hold their heads high, we finished with pride, keep moving on, and there’s going to be success somewhere in their lives.”