It wasn't until the 76th and final game of the 2017 Green Run Spring League that overtime needed to be used to decide a winner.
For the second consecutive year, the top-seeded Lake Taylor Titans went wire-to-wire undefeated and bested the host #2 seed Stallions in the Championship, doing so this time 59-56 in OT.
Lake Taylor led most of the way and opened up a 10-0 cushion before Green Run fought back to cut that deficit to 23-17 at half-time. It was simply a matter of just trying to hang on for the Titans playing without 2nd Team All-State forward Dereon Seabron, their leading scorer in the Spring League (18.3 points per game) who sat out nursing a sore back.
Cortez Johnson found Shawn Sanders for a game-tying three-pointer with 9:55 to play. The Titans misfired on their first nine three-pointers before Edward Mitchell's downtown make broke a 40-all tie.
With 3:06 remaining, the Stallions gained their first lead on a three-pointer from Ashley James. They pushed that lead to 50-46 with a minute to play as Sanders - wh0 converted each of his first nine shots inside the arc- scored in the paint.
It appeared Green Run would put the game away at the free-throw line, leading by three with 20.3 seconds to go. But a lane violation cost them a chance to go up four points and gave Lake Taylor new life, which their other 2nd Team All-State guard Joe Bryant seized.
Bryant drained a running three-pointer with 10 seconds to go that tied the game. Green Run came up empty in its final possession of regulation.
In OT, Bryant scored the first basket, then Zyrai Mitchell (Class of 2020) had Lake Taylor's next five points, including a three-point play. The Titans never trailed in the extra session and Green Run failed to get a off a potential game-tying shot before the buzzer sounded.
Though he struggled at the start of both of Thursday's games - 1-for-6 from the field in the first half of the semis against Western Branch and 1-for-5 prior to intermission vs. Green Run - Bryant came through in crunch time. He had 12 of his team-best 17 points after half-time in the Championship, plus grabbed six rebounds and made 5-of-6 free-throws.
Selected as MVP of the Spring League, Bryant also had 23 points in a 61-57 comeback win over Green Run in May. They got 22 points from Seabron in that game as well.
Another valuable cog in Lake Taylor's undefeated run where they outscored opponents 848-567 (an average of 21.7 points per contest) was the other element in their 'Big 3,' senior trio. That's Jalen Jordan, who averaged 12.2 points per game during the Spring League.
Jordan not only did some positive things on the offensive end of the court with 16 points against Western Branch 15 vs. Green Run on a combined 59% shooting from the field, but he also made his presence felt defensively. He came up with six steals against the Bruins in their 63-48 rout of the #4 seed in the semifinals.
Lake Taylor's defensive pressure quickly wore down a Western Branch team absent of two of its key members, 2nd Team All-State guard BriQuan Harrell and starting forward Saiquan White. The Titans had 22 steals and forced 27 turnovers total. Seabron tallied 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting before suffering an injury in the first minute of the second half.
Another Chapter Awaits?
Lake Taylor and Green Run will meet again in November when the Stallions play host to the Titans again in a preseason benefit game before the 2017-18 campaign commences before programs.
Both teams have been among the most successful in the Hampton Roads and rank among the top teams in Virginia without a state title to date for that matter.
Since 2004-15 - when the current crop of rising seniors entered the school - the Titans are 63-15 overall. They fell to Monacan, 57-53, in the 4A State Championship as sophomores before a heart-breaking 61-60 loss to Smithfield on a 45-foot buzzer-beater from Keon Tucker in the regional quarterfinals last February.
Green Run has won at least 17 games each of the past six seasons, compiling a record of 121-32 during that stretch. However, the Stallions have lost 10 of their last 11 regional playoff games dating back to 2005 and continue to pursue their first State Tournament berth since 1984.
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