By Tommy Keeler Jr.
STEPHENS CITY -- In a match-up with a combined three players 6-foot-7 or taller, it was Handley who stood tallest at the end.
The Judges were able to overcome a buzzer-beater in regulation to pull out a 55-52 win over Sherando on Friday in Northwestern District boys basketball action.
"I was really happy with how we handled adversity," Handley coach Jason Toten said. "[In a loss] to Loudoun Valley we didn't handle adversity very well. When [Sherando] hit the buzzer-beater we could have come out in the overtime and hung our heads, but we didn't."
Sherando 6-foot--8 center Jeremiah Curtis was responsible for sending the game to overtime. The Warriors had the ball with six seconds left trailing 50-48. Sherando's Isaiah Williams drove toward the basket and threw up a floater that missed, but Curtis was there to tip it in. The ball rolled all the way around the rim before dropping in at the buzzer to send the game to overtime.
"We just wanted to get something going to the basket, and Jeremiah did a good job getting on the glass and getting his hands on it," Sherando coach Garland Williams said. "He gave us a chance to play an extra four minutes."
Handley took the lead for good on a basket by 6-foot-8 center and Wofford commit Cameron Jackson with 2:09 left in the overtime.
Jackson scored all five of Handley's points in the overtime. He scored on an assist from point guard Tre Brown with 47 seconds left to extend the lead to 54-50. Curtis scored inside the paint with 36 seconds left to cut the lead to two points, but a free throw by Jackson with nine seconds left gave Handley a 55-52 lead.
Sherando (3-7, 2-1 Northwestern) had one last chance, but Garland Williams said they weren't able to execute the play like they wanted, and Azjier Outler missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to seal the win for Handley.
Jackson was the story of the game for the Judges as he had a game-high 23 points and 11 rebounds. He was in foul trouble in the first half, but had 17 of his points in the second half and overtime.
"We told him he's got to stay out of foul trouble," Toten said. "I thought in the third quarter he really took over the game."
The Judges (7-1, 1-0 Northwestern) led 25-24 at the half, but Jackson helped Handley build a 42-31 lead with 1:07 left in the third period. Jackson had 10 of Handley's 17 points in the third period.
Sherando responded as 6-foot-7 sophomore Grant Golden scored inside and a 3-pointer by Trey Brisco cut the lead to 42-36 after three periods.
The Warriors continued with the momentum in the fourth period, as they went on a 10-0 run to cut the lead to 42-41 with 5:49 left in the game.
"We turned the ball over too many times," Garland Williams said. "At times we took some poor shots, but despite that we stayed in the game."
Handley pushed the lead to 46-43 on a basket by Jackson with 1:08 left. Golden responded with a 3-pointer to tie the game. Baskets by Solomon Finley and KeSean Robinson gave the Judges a 50-46 lead with 34 seconds left in regulation.
Outler's driving layup cut the lead to 50-48 with nine seconds left. Handley then turned the ball over with six seconds left setting up Curtis' tip-in to end regulation.
Will Dearing had 10 points for the Judges, who were only 6-for-17 from the free-throw line.
"We have to do a better job at the free-throw line. It's been a real problem for us the last two games," Toten said. "Overall, I'm pretty happy with where we're at. The kids have given a great effort all season."
Curtis had 16 points and 16 rebounds, and Golden had 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Warriors. The Warriors continue to struggle in close games this season.
"Some of the guys that we're really counting on need to step it up a little bit," Garland Williams said. "We know that they're capable of playing of playing better than they have the last few games."