Excuse Mitch Morris for being a little frazzled.
Two tense overtimes and a thrilling finish had the Holly Pond High boys basketball coach a little off kilter.
But Morris did walk off the court breathing out a sigh of relief … and into the Broncos’ locker room to a wild celebration.
Jacob Cahoon knocked down two clutch free throws with 4.9 seconds remaining on the clock, and fifth-ranked (3A) Holly Pond avoided a scare at the buzzer, surviving a wild 64-62 double-overtime win over Cold Springs in the semifinals of the Cullman County tournament Friday night.
Holly Pond advances to play Fairview for the Cullman County title tonight at Wallace State’s Tom Drake Coliseum.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve been involved in a game like that,” Morris said. “There wasn’t any shortage of excitement, was there?”
No coach, there wasn’t.
With the score tied and less than 10 seconds remaining, it looked like a third overtime was inevitable. But Cahoon managed to draw a foul.
Cahoon stepped to the foul line and sank both free throws, giving the Broncos a two-point cushion with 4.9 seconds remaining.
“I was nervous. Real nervous,” Cahoon said. “But I looked at Coach Morris over on the bench and knew he had faith in me.”
Holly Pond controlled its own destiny, but it wasn’t time to celebrate, yet.
Not with Justin Aby on the other team.
And Aby managed to put a scare into everyone on the Broncos’ bench.
A potential game winning 3-pointer from Aby looked like it was going to fall through the net from approximately 25 feet out.
The trajectory was almost perfect. So close, in fact that Cold Springs guard Chayse Elliott was celebrating at midcourt the moment the ball left Aby’s hand.
But that celebration was a bit premature.
Aby’s desperation 3-pointer bounced off the front of the rim, and then off the back before taking a Holly Pond roll off the side of the basket, sending the Broncos into the championship game.
“I thought for sure it was going in,” said Walker. “It looked like it was going in from where I was standing. It actually went down twice.”
Morris had the same fear, and for good reason. Aby had already done it to the Broncos’ once, nailing a contested 3-pointer that sent the game into a second overtime.
Aby finished with 31 points and five 3-pointers.
“When (Aby’s shot) hit the first time, I got excited,” Morris said. “But when it hit the second time, I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, this isn’t happening.’
“But hey, it’s a win. And we’ll take it and go to the championship game.”
After an intense first half, Holly Pond finally managed to build a small cushion in the third quarter, using a 7-0 run to take a 32-25 lead.
But Cold Springs immediatley responded. Aby nailed a 3-pointer and Elliott followed with a layup and a free throw to pull the Eagles back within one.
Holly Pond managed to build its lead back to nine early in the fourth quarter when Walker capped a 12-3 run with a 3-pointer. But once again, Aby brought the Eagles back, making a couple of 3-pointers to trim the deficit to 46-42.
Cold Springs closed out regulation with a 7-0 run that ended with a basket from Elliott that sent the game into overtime.
“You’ve got to give Cold Springs credit,” Morris said. “They came to play and fought to the very end. That was one of those games the fans probably didn’t want to see end, and at times, it felt like we were doing everything possible to keep everyone in the building.
“But that just a great game between two good teams who didn’t want to lose. Aby did his part and made some special plays, and so did some of our guys like Jacob Cahoon, Drew (Adams) and Jacob Walker. They did their part to keep us in it. It was definitely a special win for us.”
Walker led Holly Pond with 18 points, finishing with six 3-pointers. Thomas Hays added 14 points and Adams tossed in 13.
Elliott scored 13 for Cold Springs and Colton Henderson added eight.
Justin Graves can be reached by phone at 734-2131, ext. 257 or by e-mail at email@example.com.