Ikechi Chantilou had already scored 12 points in the fourth quarter to bring the George Wythe Bulldogs back from a 13-point halftime deficit and into a tie with Hopewell.
With 7.3 seconds on the clock, he stood at the foul line with a chance to put Wythe ahead by 2 points. The crowd at Petersburg High School was mostly Hopewell fans, though, and they played their part.
Chantilou missed the first shot of a one-and-one, causing the crowd to erupt. But his teammate Jarec Brown was there for the rebound. Brown quickly shot a layup, Hopewell’s last-second desperation heave missed the mark and the Bulldogs upset the Blue Devils 66-64 in the quarterfinals of the Class 3 state tournament.
George Wythe completes the comeback, beating Hopewell 66-64. With seconds left, Ikechi Chantilou misses a free throw and Jarec Brown puts it back up for the game-winning shot. pic.twitter.com/N813OvWfn5— 804 Varsity (@804Varsity) March 3, 2018
“I was nervous,” Chantilou said. “I heard the crowd, but I tried to zone them out and take my time on the shot.”
In the huddle before Chantilou’s shots, his teammates made it clear that making those foul shots was imperative, Brown said. But Brown knew he had to be there just in case.
“You never go thinking somebody is always going to make a free throw,” he said.
Brown’s presence was critical during more than just the final seconds. He helped the Bulldogs (21-3) build a 22-20 lead with 13 points in the first quarter and finished with 28 points to lead all scorers.
Throughout the first half, Hopewell’s shooters got the better of Wythe. Freshman point guard Elvin Edmonds IV made four 3-pointers and scored 16 points in the first half, and Faizohn Taylor added three 3-pointers and 11 points. The Blue Devils (22-4) led 42-29 at halftime.
The difference in the second half was Wythe’s “secret defense,” Bulldogs coach Willard Coker said. He wouldn’t explain the formation or strategy, but he said it put more pressure on Hopewell’s shooters and led to missed shots.
“We’ve got opponents that we’re still going to play,” Coker said with a laugh.
Whatever the defense was, it worked. Taylor and Edmonds combined for 12 points in the second half.
Part of Wythe’s struggles early on were the result of lackluster nights from its role players. Darrell Purdie and Eugene Williams both struggled from behind the arc.
The Bulldogs likely can’t afford off nights from their shooters in the next round. They'll face either John Marshall or Phoebus in the semifinals.