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Demopolis upsets Livingston in OT

For the Demopolis boys hoops team, their bounce-back 2006 season lives on. For Livingston’s boys, the season has ended in the most heartbreaking fashion possible.

Demopolis’ Shantrell Braxton hit two free throws with 2 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Tigers a 52-50 upset over the second-seeded Cougars in the semifinals of the 4A Area 5 tournament Friday night in Eutaw. Livingston had gone from celebration to disbelief just moments earlier, when an apparent game-winning basket by center Roland Fitch was waved off after Fitch was called for the foul that sent Braxton to the line.

Livingston had come within inches of winning the game themselves. Two Fitch free throws had tied the game at 50 with 23 seconds left in the extra period, giving Demopolis the last shot. But the Cougar defense forced an off-balance shot by Dontrell Miller that gave Livingston the ball out of bounds with 9 seconds remaining. Jeremy Yates drove the length of the court and put up a bank shot that just missed, followed by a tap-in that just rolled off the rim as well. In the ensuing scramble, Fitch recovered the ball and scored as the buzzer sounded, only to be whistled for the foul on Braxton.

The Tiger sophomore, just promoted from the “B” team two weeks ago, calmly sank both shots. A last-second heave from the Cougars caught the back of the iron, and the Tiger bench emptied on to the floor to celebrate.

Demopolis advances to face the winner of the Greene County-Choctaw County contest late Friday night. The Area 5 championship game will be held Monday night at 6 p.m. at Greene County high, with the winner hosting the Area 1 runner-up in next week’s sub-regional round and the loser traveling to take on the Area 1 winner.

The dramatic ending was a fitting cap to a game that featured big play after big play and enough twists and turns for next year’s tournament as well. Livingston scored the first eight points of the game and never let Demopolis within five in the first half, eventually taking a 22-13 lead into the break after a Yates basket capped a 6-2 spurt in the final two minutes. A Lamarcus Bell basket to open the second half gave Livingston an 11-point lead, its largest of the game.

The Tigers responded, however, with a withering full-court pressure defense that would force numerous turnovers and put the Cougars on their heels for the remainder of the third quarter. Starting with a Casey Cantey basket with 6:55 to play in the period, Demopolis would score 22 of the game’s next 32 points, eventually taking their first lead of the game at 35-34 on a Miller basket with 5:25 to play in the fourth.

But Tiger freshman forward Brian Taylor fouled out a few seconds later and Willie Blount followed him to the bench with five personals 90 seconds after that, allowing Livingston to re-establish a 39-35 lead on two James Bell free throws with 3:21 to play.

Demopolis would tie the game again with back-to-back baskets by Braxton and Dwiuan White, and retook the lead on Braxton’s clutch three (the Tigers’ only one of the game) with 57 seconds left.

Livingston then stole the momentum back, with Haley Williams capitalizing on a Demopolis defensive breakdown to retake the lead and Tony Harris hitting one of two free throws following a Miller charging foul, putting the Cougars up 44-42 with only 15 seconds to play.

But the missed free throw would loom large as Miller knocked down a pull-up jumper to send the game into overtime. A mad scramble for a loose ball as time expired resulted in Miller sinking a shot from the half-court stripe, but the shot came well after the buzzer, much to the disappointment of the celebrating Tiger supporters.

James Bell scored the first three points of overtime for Livingston, but baskets by White and Cantey sandwiched a Fitch free throw to tie the game at 48 and set up the wild ending.

Demopolis was led by Cantey with 18 points, followed by Miller with 14, Braxton with 9, White with 4, Taylor with 3, and Blount and MacArthur Johnson with 2 each.

James Bell led the way for Livingston with 15 points, followed by Yates with 12, Fitch with 10, Williams with 7, Harris with 2, Lamarcus Bell with 2, and Frederick Jones with 2.