Davis’ buzzer-beater lifts Falcons to Class 2 state berth

Bryan Davis

WOODSTOCK — Bryan Davis was nervous.

The Central senior had the weight of the entire game, the boisterous Falcons’ crowd and a Class 2 boys basketball state berth all on his shoulders — and he delivered.

Davis’ buzzer-beating shot gave Central a 45-43 victory over George Mason in the Region 2B semifinals on Friday night. The win gives the Falcons their first state berth since 1999.

Central coach Jeff Whittle called a timeout with 25 seconds left and the game tied at 43, and called for the play in which Davis was expected to take the final shot in the final seconds.

“When coach called the play for me I was nervous at first, but when I stepped on the court the nerves were all gone,” Davis said. “The mid-range was hitting all night. So when I had the ball in my hands I just went up with it.”

Sam Shifflett

Davis took a pass from Central guard Varsey Bright with about three seconds left and went up and hit the game-winner.

“It was a real pleasure,” Davis said. “I couldn’t ask for a better pass (from Bright). He bounce-passed it right into my pocket. So I just went straight up with it after that.”

The Falcons made clutch plays throughout the game.

The second half was back and forth, but the Mustangs used a 6-0 run to take a 43-38 lead with 2:51 left.

The Falcons (23-3) scored the last seven points. Central’s Luke Estep scored when basket interference was called on his attempted basket with 2:34 remaining.

Central’s Sam Shifflett hit his fifth 3-pointer of the game with 1:58 left to tie the game at 43.

“That was huge,” Shifflett said. “I let that one go. And as soon as I let it go, that was one of the one’s where you know as a shooter, I just knew that was going in. It was awesome.”

The two teams each missed a shot and George Mason’s Connor Fletchall missed two free throws to keep the score tied.

After a Central turnover, the Mustangs had the ball with 1:17 left. George Mason worked the ball around and appeared to be trying to run the clock down for a final shot, but turned the ball over with 25 seconds left.

After Davis’ final shot went in, the team celebrated with Central’s student section, ‘The Nest.’

“I feel bad for some of the students, I think we crushed some of them,” Shifflett said. “That was one of those moments you’ll never forget. Just the dogpile there — that was amazing. That was awesome.”

The first half was a game of runs.

Central struggled in the first period, making only three baskets against George Mason’s 1-3-1 zone defense.

The Mustangs (15-10) used an 11-4 run to take a 13-5 edge with 1:55 left in the opening quarter.

The Falcons responded with a 12-0 run of their own to lead 17-13 with 5:04 left in the second period. Shifflett hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Falcons a lift during the spurt.

The Mustangs used a 10-1 run to close the first half for a 23-18 lead.

Shifflett led the Falcons with 15 points, while Davis added 8.

The Falcons, who have won seven straight games, play Robert E. Lee tonight in the Region 2B final at Spotswood High School.

Whittle, a Strasburg graduate, went to the state tournament as a player and now has led the Falcons to their first state berth since 1999.

“Obviously, it was exciting back when I played, back in the late 90’s,” Whittle said. “I know we haven’t been in a while, so it’s a good step towards getting us back in there. They’re all excited about it. That’s our goal. So we’re looking forward to it, but we’re also want to get our minds ready for (tonight). We want to try to win a (regional) championship.”