Griffin Lutz received an inbounds pass with 11 seconds left on the clock and his team down one point. As he turned to sprint down the court, his eyes weren’t set on the clock, but the hoop.
The senior, a team captain and the one who the Bulldogs have relied on all season, dodged the plethora of Sheridan defenders that stood in front of him as he leaped toward the hoop and calmly made a layup to give his team the lead, sending the Athens bench and crowd into a frenzy.
With four seconds left to play, Athens made the final defensive stand to seal the 58-57 win, ending Sheridan’s season.
“The floor just opened up, and I had to take it,” Lutz said. “I’m glad coach didn’t call a timeout. Knowing who we have on the floor, we can score at any time.”
Coach Mickey Cozart emerged from the locker room after the game with a smile on his face. His team, which has struggled to win in close games all season, finally pulled one out when it needed to the most.
“Everybody counted us out in this one,” Cozart said. “We thought we had a good game plan and we felt we were ready to come on and give them a good game.”
Lutz may have had the game’s most important play, but the Generals were tough on him throughout the entirety of the game. Lutz scored just 10 points.
Sheridan may have placed too much emphasis on stopping Lutz, however, as the scoresheet was dominated by a new Bulldog.
Dalton Cozart, son of Mickey, frequently found himself wide-open behind the 3-point line and the junior led the team with 22 points. He was 5-for-10 from 3-point range.
“I was just thankful my team gave me the ball and the opportunity to get that,” Dalton said. “I just made shots and it felt great.”
Without Dalton's performance from the 3-point line, the Bulldogs likely would've seen their season come to an end.
"(Dalton) was huge," Lutz said. "He opened up the floor for everyone else and hit 3-pointers out of the gym. It just opened everything up."
The thrilling win sends the Bulldogs into the second round of the playoffs, which will be played in The Convo. Athens (14-9) will play Miami-Trace (17-3) on Thursday.
“This sectional is tough,” Mickey Cozart said. “If you can get out of it, you’ve done something. From the first seed to the ninth seed — they’re all good teams. For us to get out, it means a lot.”