Friday, February 29, 2008

Dublin knocks out Randolph-Clay

SAVANNAH, GA -- St. Patrick's Day around these parts is a pretty wild scene. Leave it to Dublin High School to get the town ready for the annual celebration. The Irish beat Randolph-Clay 80-79 in one of the best games of the season in the Elite Eight round of the GHSA AA state tournament.

As soon as Dublin head coach Clint Thomas made his way off the court, he pulled an aluminum chair off the rack, wiped his sweaty brow with the towel off of his shoulder and let out a sigh of relief after the game.

He should. The game was wild. Dublin held a seven point lead with less than two minutes to play but Randolph-Clay, the only team with an undefeated record going into the state playoffs, scrapped back and cut the lead to as many as one with 59 seconds to play.

Randolph-Clay senior DeAndre Johnson hit a three-pointer with a hand in his face with 59 seconds to play, cutting the lead to 77-76 in favor of Dublin. A couple of possessions later on a clear path to the basket, he dribble the ball of his foot and gave the ball to Dublin.

Dublin junior guard Sherrard Brantley hit a pair of free throws with 17.5 to play, giving Dublin a four-point lead. The next possession, Randolph-Clay senior Dexter Ellington drilled a three-pointer with nine seconds to play, putting the Red Devils within one.

With five seconds to play, Dublin junior Chris Smith missed both free throws. Randolph-Clay had a moment to win the game with a last-second shot by Jason Martin that hit side rim as the buzzer sounded.

"That was a game of two well-conditioned teams out there," Thomas said. "It was one of those games where the kids just played their hearts out."

Rashard Smith (pictured) led Dublin with 24 points (5-16 FG, 14-21 FT) and seemed to come up with big play after big play throughout the game. His defensive pressure and free throw shooting for three quarters came up big for the Irish.

His cousin, Ben, helped Dublin claim a state title two years ago.

"There is something in that family that makes them step up," Thomas said. "He's the quarterback for the football team and he's just so under control."

Smith said he tried to keep his nerves in the tight situation.

"It was wild game and we just came out and stuck to our game plan," Smith said. "We stay composed when it mattered."

Brantley came up with key three-pointers in the fourth quarter that gave Dublin a comfortable seven point cushion for a good part of the fourth quarter. He finished with 18 points in the win. Ellington led the way with 30 points in the defeat.

The trip to the Final Four is Dublin's third in the last four years for the Irish. The AA powerhouse also improved to 5-0 at Savannah State.

Dublin will play the winner of Pace-Wesleyan game on March 6 at Macon Centreplex at 5:30 p.m.