Tuesday night's matchup versus Mount Olive was a huge playoff game for Simmons' head boys basketball coach, Carl Lucas. A win over Mount Olive would not only advance his team, it would be the perfect ending to a night that he and his wife celebrated their wedding anniversary. Just like any relationship, there are ups and downs. The Blue Devils' first round matchup against the Pirates was no different as Mount Olive's Javeon Gordon delivered a huge block as time expired, helping the Pirates advance with a 51-50 win .
Neither team was able to hold on to a significant lead in the opening half but Mount Olive went to the locker room up 23-20.
The game was going just the way head coach Carl Lucas thought it would. "It was a typical playoff game," he said. "It went back and forth the whole game. It's what you'd expect in a playoff game."
The Blue Devils gained momentum early in the second half. Anterrian Hawkins drained a triple shortly after intermission to give Simmons a 25-23 lead. He followed that three-pointer up with a huge defensive play as he forced a turnover and turned the steal into two more points on the other end with a layup. That forced Mount Olive to call a timeout as the Blue Devils looked to be pulling away as they opened on a 9-0 run to start the third frame.
The Pirates would regroup and cut the deficit to six but Simmons took a 40-34 lead into the final quarter along with an enthusiastic crowd that found it difficult to stay seated as their team inched closer to the second round of the playoffs.
The final frame was one that kept fans of both teams on their feet. With 4:35 to go in the game, the score was knotted at 42 when the Pirates' Javeon Gordon connected from long range and drew the foul. He missed the attempt from the charity stripe but momentum started to switch his team's way. Simmons' Anterrian Hawkins answered moments later with a deep three-pointer of his own to increase his point total to 16 for the night.
With 26.6 seconds to go in the game, Mount Olive led 49-47. That's when Blue Devil Tahjuan Barber sent the gym into a frenzy when he drove down the court and knocked down a triple to give his team a 50-49 lead, shocking even his head coach. "To be honest, I didn't want him to shoot it," said Lucas. However, Barber's clutch shot went down and the Simmons High School fans erupted.
As they were celebrating, Mount Olive rushed down the court and scored quickly to regain the lead, taking a 51-50 advantage with only 5.4 seconds left on the clock. "We made a big shot to go up one," said Lucas. "We kind of lost track on defense. I don't know if we were celebrating or not but they ended up getting a back-door layup."
Simmons had one last chance to take the lead with time expiring but what seemed to be an easy layup and game-winning basket turned into the defensive play of the game when Mount Olive's Javeon Gordon delivered a huge block as time expired, helping the Pirates advance with a 51-50 win.
"I thought we had a layup going to the goal but Gordon flew from the free throw line and made a tremendous block," said Lucas. "That's just the way the cookie crumbled tonight. I'm devastated that we lost and in the fashion that we lost. I told them to keep their heads up. For the guys that are coming back, I told them that we're just going to take one step further as we prepare for next season."
Every player except one senior, Rodrick Wilson, will return next year for Lucas. Devonte Rush finished with 16 points and Mount Olive's Javeon Gordon led all scorers with 17. Lucas said, despite the loss, he wanted to publicly wish his wife a happy anniversary.