By Marc Pruitt
The new kid on the block in the Central Piedmont 4-A Conference can now also call themselves the regular season champions.
East Forsyth, playing in its first season in the league, held off Reynolds in Bryson Gymnasium Friday night for a 65-64 win to snag the top seed for next week’s conference tournament and more importantly, the No. 1 seed from the conference for the NCHSAA 4-A state playoffs.
The furious pace during the fourth quarter led to a frantic finish and was capped of when Savon Brintley made two free throws with three seconds left to give the Eagles the win.
Reynolds couldn’t get a shot off on its final possession.
East (18-5, 9-1 CPC 4A) had missed five of its last six free throw attempts in the final 1:09 when it could have pulled away while nursing small leads. The Eagles were 12 of 23 from the line during the fourth quarter before Brintley connected with the game-winners.
Reynolds (16-8, 7-3) took a 64-63 lead with 6.2 seconds left on a layup by Tobias Johnson. East called time out and inbounded the ball when Brintley broke free and was fouled on the far end of the court, right in front of the Reynolds student section.
“I’ve never found myself in that situation before,” Brintley said. “Their fans were up yelling. I just put it out of mind and focused on what I needed to do. I felt a lot better after that first one went down. It didn’t make the second one much easier, but I was confident I’d make it.”
Brintley finished with seven points and was 5 of 8 from the free throw line. Tyren Hairston led a balanced scoring attack with13 points, Shemar Watkins added 12, and A.J. Hall finished with 11.
Neither team led by more than five points throughout the game, and Reynolds erased two five-point leads in the fourth quarter.
“We just didn’t quit, and neither did they,” Coach Mike Muse of East Forsyth said. “That shows you the resiliency this group has. We had chances to fold and we stayed poised. We had chances to put them away and just couldn’t get there. We were hungry and we competed, and as a coach, there’s nothing more you can ask for. I’ve got a bunch of good young men that are class acts. They work hard and do things the right way and they play together and are unselfish and humble. That’s a good formula for winning. These guys deserve this and I’m proud of them. Couldn’t ask for a better group of young men.”
East trailed 43-41 to start the fourth quarter but used a 5-0 run to take a 48-45 lead, capped off by a three-point play from A.J. Hall. The Eagles led 57-52 when Reynolds used a 5-0 run to tie the game with 1:15 left. Johnson, who led the Demons with a game-high 17 points—all of which came in the second half—scored all five points during the run.
East led 61-60 when Hall missed both free throws with 32.3 seconds left, and Reynolds took advantage.
Ian Henderson (12 points) drove the lane and converted a layup with 20.3 seconds left to give Reynolds a short-lived 62-61 lead. Brintley answered with a driving layup of his own with 12 seconds left to put East back ahead at 63-62, setting up the dramatic finish.
“It was a great basketball game,” Coach Billy Martin of Reynolds said. “You couldn’t draw it up any better to end the game for a conference championship. These kids fought hard. We just didn’t get the break at the end. We stayed in it and fought to the end. We’ve had several games this year we’ve done that. We were down 20 in one game and came back. We just stay in there and fight and that’s a credit to them.”
For Muse and the Eagles, the win was a testament to his team’s resolve.
“It’s a tough game to win in a tough environment on the road,” Muse said. “We lost to Reynolds at our place pretty bad, and from that game on, we’ve felt like we were in the playoffs. We’ve taken every single game like a playoff game. That’s helped us out—the way we practice our mentality and approach to every game—that’s what paid off in the fourth quarter tonight because we’ve had that emphasis all the way back to that loss.”
East Forsyth: Hairston 13, Watkins 12, Hall 11, Nichols 3, Brintley 7, Mahaffey 9, Samuels 4, Wiley 2, Sparrow 2
Reynolds: Goodloe 11, Henderson 12, Borland 10, Murphy 2, Ingram 10, Johnson 17, Clemons 2