BIRMINGHAM – Safe to say it was the best Class 7A playoff game in state history, but Robert E. Lee wished it could’ve been on the winning side of it.
Every possession revealed a new hero, another clutch play down the stretch. But in the closing minutes, Hoover pulled away and defeated Robert E. Lee 65-56 in two overtimes in the state semifinals.
“I know all these guys are disappointed, but they have no reason to be disappointed because they played their hearts out and left everything on the court,” Lee coach Bryant Johnson said. “We just came up short.”
The Generals ran out of gas in the second overtime. The Bucs outscored the Generals 11-2 in the period and ended the game on an 8-0 run in the final 2 minutes.
Lee’s Kendarius Hartwell (1) reacts to Lee losing against Hoover 65-56 in two overtimes in the AHSAA Class 7A State Semi Final game on Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015, in Birmingham, Ala.
“It just came down to us making free throws to close the game out, at the end of regulation and the first overtime,” Johnson said. “We missed a couple of possessions and they came down and hit big 3s and got right back in the game. I think our free-throw shooting hindered us down the stretch. When we needed to make them, we didn’t.”
The Generals went 14-for-34 at the stripe, including 7-for-16 in the second half and 2-for-8 in overtime.
The game was even the whole way, with neither team leading by more than five during regulation or the first overtime. Lee’s biggest lead was 48-43 midway through the first overtime, but Hoover responded with to take a 54-52 lead with 25 seconds left.
Rod Scott used a crossover to create space and hit an 18-foot jumper with 13 seconds left to tie the game.
Scott had 11 points and seven rebounds. Fellow St. Jude transfer Tommy Burton had nine points and 11 rebounds. After winning the previous two state titles in Class 1A with the Pirates, it was a difficult change for Burton.
“It’s tough. I’ve never been on the side of losing in state. Just something I’ve got to look at and get better from,” Burton said.
Kendarius Hartwell led the Generals with 12 points and grabbed five rebounds. He also had three assists and three steals. Trenton Clayton had 10 points and grabbed six rebounds.
“It’s a great experience, I have great teammates,” Clayton said. “I just wish we would’ve won and made history.”