DALTON, Ga. — O'Shea Hill has no problem being aggressive, so when Northwest Whitfield basketball coach Ryan Richards told his senior center to overplay the high post in the waning seconds of a tie game Tuesday, the directive was met with a smile and a nod.
Hill's steal and full-court streak for a layup with one second to play lifted the Bruins to a pivotal 66-64 win at rival Dalton. The game-winning play capped a career night for the 6-foot-3 Hill, who had 23 points, 14 rebounds, five steals and four blocked shots.
"He played like a man tonight, and that play summed up his effort," Richards said. "He dominated on both sides of the floor. He played real smart and hard tonight -- he never has a problem being aggressive."
The win gives the Bruins (17-3, 7-0) a three-game lead in subregion 7B-AAAA with three games to play and a regular-season sweep of the Catamounts (15-6, 5-3). A subregion title, the first for the program, according to Richards, would leave Northwest just one win in the region tournament away from qualifying for the state tournament.
The game featured 14 lead changes, with the Catamounts holding the biggest margin at 44-37 two minutes into the second half. Northwest, however, used two putbacks and consecutive 3-pointers from Caleb Storey to tie the game at 54 entering the final period.
A Robert Enck short jump shot gave Dalton a 60-58 lead with 3:45 to play, and the teams swapped baskets over the final minutes, with Alex Bautista tying the game for the Catamounts on a layup with 41 seconds to play. Strong defense by Rico Mears led to a Northwest turnover on the ensuing possession, setting up Dalton for one final try.
During a timeout, though, Richards noted the Bruins still had two fouls to give, so he turned them loose.
"We hadn't run our trap all night out of the zone, so we decided to throw it at them," he said. "We didn't feel good giving them the last shot, so we either wanted to turn them over or get a quick shot so we would have time to come back down. It was the right play for us, and O'Shea made a nice steal and got the game-winner."
Hill was ready for the pass into the high post, tipped the ball away and sped down the court ahead of two Dalton players.
"We were trying to make sure their guy didn't catch the ball in the high post, so I jumped him and was able to steal it," Hill said. "We didn't want him to catch it there because we felt he would score. This is my last year, so to come out with a win here is great."
Tanner Bailey added 12 points and Storey had 11 for the Bruins, while Bautista and Desmond Rucker topped Dalton with 15 each, with Mears adding 13.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...