By Stan Awtrey
For the AJC
With two seconds showing on the clock and the ball at the wrong end of the court, Georgia State coach Ron Hunter called an old familiar play. Only this time it worked.
Georgia State’s Rashaad Richardson launched a well-defended jumper from just over the half-court line that miraculously went in to give the Panthers a 59-57 win over Tennessee State on Tuesday in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at the GSU Sports Arena.
“I’ve probably run it 20 times, and we’ve never made it,” Hunter said.
He knows it works now, but only because he heard the crowd’s reaction. Hunter didn’t see the ball actually go in, but was pretty sure when he saw the court was flooded by GSU students and his players sprawled on top of each other in a dogpile. The next thing you now Richardson was being carried around on the shoulders of fans as Hunter pounded his fists in exultation on press row and howled with the fans.
Richardson, “That was pretty cool.”
Tennessee State took a 57-56 lead on Deshawn Dockery’s driving basket, and Georgia State hustled to call timeout and pray for miracle. Hunter called a misdirection play he borrowed from former Valparaiso coach Homer Drew, whose team used it for a miracle win over Ole Miss in the 1998 NCAA playoffs.
Manny Atkins inbounded the ball for the Panthers and found Richardson, who took a dribble and fired, even with a defender hawking him the whole time.It was the fourth time the lead had changed hands in the final 25 seconds.
The win was the second consecutive for Georgia State (2-2), which won the game despite suffering through an off-night on offense. Devonta White, who scored a game-high 19 points, kept the Panthers in the game by making six of eight shots from the field, including three of four 3-pointers.
Georgia State plays South Alabama at 3 p.m. today, while Tennessee State plays Monmouth at noon in the final phase of the three-day event.
The loss ruined the homecoming for Tennessee State coach Travis Williams, who was a player and assistant coach at Georgia State. Williams previously was the head coach at Fort Valley State and with the professional Dongguan Parklane Snow Wolves in China.
Tennessee State (1-4) had three players in double figures, led by Robert Covington, who scored 13 points before fouling out.
White kept Georgia State in the game in the first half. The junior from Alpharetta scored 11 of the Panthers’ 25 points, making three of four from the floor — all 3-pointers — and knocking down both free-throw tries. The rest of the team made only six of 20 in the half, as Tennessee State’s tough interior defense prevented the Panthers from having much success in the paint.
Tennessee State jumped to a quick 9-2 lead with 16:42, leaving the Panthers to scramble to catch up. Georgia State finally took the lead, 13-9, on consecutive 3-pointers by White and R.J. Hunter, and went ahead 21-18 on White’s third 3-pointer. The teams exchanged the lead again before Georgia State ended it 25-24 on Markus Crider’s drive to the basket.
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