The game was over until all of a sudden it wasn’t.
Trailing 59-50 with 1:12 left, the Lawrence County Red Devils’ chances of winning their second straight county championship seemed like virtually zero. But when it comes to the Lawrence County tournament, it’s never over till it’s over.
Junior Alandis Johnson knocked down three three pointers in the final 1:11, including the go ahead shot with 1.7 seconds left, to lead the Red Devils to an improbable 61-60 come from behind victory.
It was a performance that will never be forgotten in the history of the Lawrence County tournament.
“I was just thinking that we can’t lose,” Johnson said. “It felt great, a moment I’ll never forget.”
It seemed inevitable that East Lawrence would win their first county title since 2017. After trailing 25-23 at the half, the Eagles controlled the entirety of the second half, always having an answer for whatever the Red Devils dished out.
However, Lawrence County has made a living this season on comeback wins, which is why their coaches’ faith in victory never wavered.
“Late in the game we had some starters sitting on the bench with fouls. I said put them in the game, if we’re going to lose we’ll lose with the ones that brought us,” said Lawrence County co-head coach Gary Steadman. “That’s when Coach (Royal) Carpenter said ‘we’re not going to lose.”
The Red Devils have made a living this season on three-point shooting and press defense. It was those two things that won them the game.
“We always tell them, if you have a good look take the shot. I’m not sure how many we shot tonight,” said Carpenter, Lawrence County’s other co-head coach. “We got one there at the end. Then we forced a couple turnovers and got some more.”
For his clutch performance, Johnson was named tournament MVP. He finished with 16 points.
“It wasn’t surprising to see him play like that at the end,” Steadman said of Johnson. “He’s a great player and a great shooter.”
BenMichael Bennett led the Red Devils in scoring with 18 points, while Garrett Lee had 10. Peyton Kelly led East Lawrence with 19 points.
For the Eagles, and head coach Baine Garner, the loss was a tough to swallow. It was Garner’s first defeat in the county finals.
“It’s tough. We had some turnovers and they made some big shots. You got to close the deal and we didn’t do that tonight,” Garner said. “This was the biggest game we’ve played in and I’m proud of the guys for the way they competed and controlled the game. We have to learn from this, I told them I would trade a county title for an area championship.”
The win moves Lawrence County to 16-5 on the season. Last season’s county championship catapulted the Red Devils to a 25-win season and a trip to Wallace for the regional tournament.
“We’re a good ball team,” Johnson said. “I think this will lead to big things.”