February 9, 2011 8:48:00 AM
WEST POINT -- There was no doubt in the mind of Laquintis Robertson.
Yes, there was a foul. Yes, the official''s whistle caught it with time left on the clock. And yes, Robertson was going to do his part.
Unfazed by a timeout called to ice him, Robertson drained the first two of three free throws and then walked calmly to the sideline after another timeout.
There was no way Robertson was going to miss the third free throw, either.
Robertson''s trifecta with one second remaining Tuesday night lifted the West Point High School boys basketball team to a 53-50 victory against New Hope in the semifinals of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A, Division 2, District 1 tournament.
"I was just trying to draw a foul or go to the hole," Robertson said. "Once they closed the hole, I knew I had to pull it, and that''s when he fouled me."
Robertson saw the defender''s arm below his shooting arm, so he brought his shooting arm and made contact with the defender. He said the contact came as he was going up for the shot. Amidst all of the chaos, Robertson was a picture of poise.
"I was like, ''I got this,'' " Roberston said. "I am a senior and my team needed me, so I had to step up and be a leader."
The victory helped West Point (12-12) end New Hope''s run of six consecutive district titles and secure it a spot against Oxford in the district title game at 8 p.m. Friday at West Point High.
West Point coach Brad Cox knew in Robertson he had a perfect person on the free-throw line.
"Whether it was one shot or three shots, we had our senior and our leader at the line," Cox said. "There has been several times when we have talked and I have told him, ''This is your year and you have to lead them.'' Tonight was his best job of leading them, not necessarily with points (13), but with the way he played and the way he led."
The loss marked the second year in a row New Hope had a last-second call by an official help end its season. Last season, a foul call on Johnathan Brandon on Callaway''s Deville Smith at the end of regulation helped pave the way for a 78-75 loss in the Class 5A North State semifinals in Columbus.
New Hope coach Drew McBrayer couldn''t help but feel deja vu at how his team''s final game of the 2010-11 season played out in similar fashion to last season.
"It is tough for those kids in there, especially how hard they fought tonight," McBrayer said. "Six straight district championship means something to those guys. For it to go out on something like that, it is tough."
The biggest question McBrayer had was if the foul was on the floor. If it hadn''t been a shooting foul, West Point would have been in the one-and-one, which could have put a little more pressure on Robertson.
New Hope led 30-20 in the second quarter and 33-24 at halftime. But West Point turned up its defensive intensity and denied the Trojans the rhythm they used in the second quarter to hit three 3-pointers to build their lead.
"They brought a little more emotion in the third quarter and got out and defended us harder than they did in the first half," McBrayer said. "They got a couple of easy baskets out of it and really made it a tough ballgame."
West Point had a chance to win the game in regulation, but Cortez Malone''s driving layup hit the back rim and bounced out. The Green Wave got a great shot after holding the ball for the final three-plus minutes. Cox said the Green Wave held it out to force the Trojans to come out of a 2-3 zone that gave them trouble for much of the evening.
In overtime, New Hope had a chance to take the lead with less than 30 seconds, but it missed an open 3-pointer from the left wing. Quarter Gaston rebounded the miss and West Point called timeout with nine seconds left. Daryl Thomas inbounded to Robertson, who worked on the left wing beyond the 3-point arc and had just enough time to play into the defense.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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