Just when Dalton State fans thought it couldn’t get any more exciting, the Roadrunners showed the home crowd at Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center what exciting really is.
A Preston Earle three-point-shot at the buzzer lifted Dalton State to a come-from-behind 80-79 victory.
Coach Tony Ingle’s squad was up by 10 points at the half, 45-35. The Roadrunners Demetrice Jacobs and Raheem Mosley saw limited action, only 14:04 and 14:29 respectively. Mosley finished with seven rebounds and Jacobs only three.
The size advantage allowed the Southern Polytechnic State University Hornets to jump back into the game in the second half. “We are already small,” said Ingle. “Then DJ (Jacobs) didn’t play in the second half and when your leading rebounder doesn’t play the second half that can put you in a bind.”
The Roadrunners were out rebounded 46 to 39. They had a respectable 12 of 18 (66.7%) from the foul line in the first half, but the second half wasn’t as good… just 14 of 29 (48.3%). Meanwhile, the Hornets connected on 23 of 31 foul shots (74.2%)
SPSU took the lead at 55-54 with 11:26 left in the game. They had their largest lead of the night at 73-68 with 5:18 remaining. DS came back to tie the contest at 73 with 3:42 left.
The Hornets then took a four point advantage (79-75) with just 45 seconds on the clock. Dalton’s Sean Tate went to the line and hit two free throws to make it 79-77.
After the Roadrunners got the ball back, Ingle called a time-out with 8 seconds left in the game. Earle then hit the game winner at the buzzer.
“Our kids had no business winning the basketball game,” said Ingle. “But you can never underestimate the heart of a champion.”
“There was a little lull when I felt like they got down on each other a little bit. We gave them a little check-up from the neck up, they got their attitude right as a credit to them, and they got out there and hustled and found a way to win the basketball game.”
Earle finished the night with 29 points and was five of nine from behind the arch. He was also four of five from the foul line and pulled down nine rebounds. “He’s a leader and a warrior and he helped us win,” said Ingle. “He never one time doubted the outcome. He always thought we were going to win.”
The 6’4” junior from Charlotte displayed leadership late and let his teammates know they were going to win. Earle said the winning shot was his after the Hornets stopped an attempt to get the ball to Ricky Sears.
Sears had 18 points and seven rebounds, Tate scored 14 while going nine of 11 from the line. Anthony Hilliard scored eight; Jacobs had four; Nathan Terry, Mosley, and Dylan Smith each scored a couple; and Desmond Phillips added one. The largest Roadrunner lead was by 13 with 1:23 left in the first half.
Southern Poly’s Chris Key scored 19, Kevin Phillips 16, and Marcus Dortch 12. The score was tied 12 times and the lead changed 16 times.
Dalton State (10-1) travels to Madisonville, TN Saturday night for a 7:00 p.m. game at Hiwassee College. The contest is scheduled to be broadcast live on WYYU-FM in Dalton (104.5).
Dalton State celebrates the last-second victory