Richland coach Jason Loveless ran onto the court to console one of his top players after Cody Jordan missed a free throw that could have sent the Raiders’ Class A semifinal into overtime.
Cody Jordan made his first one before missing his second with 1.9 seconds left, allowing Lake County to escape 52-51 at Murphy Center on Friday.
“I told him I loved him,” Loveless said. “I told him that he played his tail off, and he’s done that his whole career. No kid plays harder than Cody Jordan — ever.”
The 6-foot-1 senior scored 15 points and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds.
“Granted, we came up a little short, but it’s been a ride and we’ve enjoyed every second of it and it means a lot to us an our team,” Jordan said.
Lake County (10-23) will play District 14-A rival Humboldt (28-6) for the fifth time this season in the championship at 4 p.m. Saturday. Humboldt has won the last three meetings.
No Tennessee team has ever won the state championship with a losing record. Lake County has four forfeits this season because of an ineligible player.
Ensworth (12-14) and Baylor (11-14) were the last teams to make it to state with losing records at the Division II boys tournament in 2007.
“This is the only record that matters right now — 2-0,” Falcons coach Dawn Barger said. “Look where we are. People can chuckle and laugh all they want to with us getting here, but we knew what we had.
“The 23 losses does have to do a lot with our competition and strength of schedule, and I think that helps elevate us a lot at this point anyway.”
The Falcons lost their first three games and suffered a 14-game losing streak, including the forfeits, from Dec. 22-Feb. 5.
“We just pulled together at the right time, and started believing in each other,” Falcons point guard Zay Coleman said. “We weren’t clicking at the beginning of the season, and we finally got together when we needed to.”
Barger made history in 2011 when she became the first female coach in Tennessee to lead a boys basketball team to a state title when Lake County won the Class A championship.
Coleman led Lake County with 22 points and seven steals. Devon Jones, a 6-2 post, added 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Bret Boatright led Richland with 17 points.
Jordan’s free throw gave the Raiders a 49-48 lead with 1:01 left. Coleman’s jumper gave Lake County a 50-49 lead with 45 seconds left.
Coleman hit two free throws to increase the Falcons’ lead to 52-50 with six seconds left.