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McHenry’s foul shots lift Tigers over Jags

Mikwese Claybourne saw teammate Nick McHenry streaking down the left side of the court and heaved the ball, hoping for a miracle with two seconds left to play and the Tigers down 83-82 to area rival Wilcox-Central.

He got one.

McHenry leapt for the ball and was undercut by a Jaguars’ player, crashing to the floor just outside the three-point stripe.

Whistle. Foul.

With one-tenth of a second showing on the clock.

“I was just trying to make a play,” said Claybourne. “I saw Nick go up and get it and then he got fouled.”

That left it up to the senior point guard.

McHenry knocked down both free throws, pointed to the sky, and gave the Tigers an 84-83 win over its Class 5A, Area 4 rivals. Fans rushed the court celebrating Greenville’s first victory over Wilcox-Central since 1999, said head coach Bryant Marlow.

And in dramatic fashion at that.

“Crazy,” said Marlow. “Was that crazy or what?”

A crazy finish, yes, but also crazy because the Tigers nearly choked the game away.

Greenville led 57-53 at the end of the third period and then went on a 14-5 run, capped off by a McHenry dunk to go up 71-58 midway through the fourth.

“The thing about Wilcox is even though you’ve got a lead you’ve always got to play them tight,” said Marlow. “They always have great shooters. When you have that big of a lead – 12, 13 points – you start to get comfortable and that’s what we did.”

The Tigers traded baskets with Wilcox-Central for most of the remainder of the fourth, but the Jaguars scored 11 straight points, taking an 82-81 lead with eight seconds remaining.

A foul sent McHenry to the line where he made one shot but missed the other. Another foul – against Greenville’s Brentley Hill – sent Wilcox-Central to the line with two seconds left. It also sent Hill to the bench with his fifth personal.

After the Jaguars sank one foul shot, Claybourne made the long pass to McHenry.

And what was McHenry thinking when he stepped to the line, especially with a large contingent of Jaguars’ fans screaming their lungs out?

“Area championship,” he said. “I just froze everybody else out and thought about putting the basketball in the goal.”

It was McHenry and Hill, both seniors, who carried Greenville in the fourth. Aside from a Za’darius Smith dunk and foul shot and a Tyrell West field goal, Hill and McHenry accounted for the rest of the Tigers’ points.

McHenry finished with 20 points, Hill with 24.

“We’ve been playing together since the eighth grade,” said McHenry. “It’s just carried over here.”

Smith added 14 points for Greenville and West scored 11.

The Tigers hold a 2-0 lead in Area 4, but will have to play at Wilcox-Central for a make-up game that was originally scheduled for Jan. 8 but cancelled because of weather. The Tigers host its final area game against Monroe County on Jan. 22.