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Tiger boys’ season ends in heartbreak

In the span of four days, the Red Bay Tigers experienced the high of keeping their season alive on a last-second three-pointer to the low of being eliminated from the postseason by the Vincent Yellow Jackets, 41-40, on a layup in the last seconds of the game.

Such is the nature of post-season basketball. One by one over the course of three weeks in February, hundreds of teams see their seasons come to abrupt ends. For some teams, it’s only a matter of time; for others, such as Red Bay, it comes all too soon, with goals and dreams dashed in an instant.

“I wish we’d had just ten more seconds, and I think we would have won the game,” said Red Bay coach John Torisky. “But that’s basketball. We had a do-or-die mentality in the fourth quarter that helped us get back in the game and take the lead, but it just wasn’t enough. This was probably the second hardest loss of my life, next only to losing in the state championship game my senior year. So I know what these guys feel like.”

By most standards it was a great season for Red Bay. The Tigers won the Franklin County championship and area championship, set a school record for most wins in a season and were ranked No. 1 in the state for a couple of weeks. But in the end, it wasn’t enough for a team that had its sights set on the Final Four in Birmingham.

“Our four seniors have really set the standard for our young guys,” said Torisky. “To go from winning two games two years ago, to the regionals last year, and to accomplish all they accomplished this year – it is a testament to their leadership.”

Trailing 33-25 with 5:25 to go in the game, Vincent seemed to be in control and on the way to winning the Northwest Region semi-final game without much fanfare. Red Bay had trouble scoring much of the game, making 11 of 32 field goals, including three of 13 three-pointers.

However, in the span of two minutes, Red Bay went on a 9-0 run to take a 34-33 lead with 3:34 to go in the game. The last three and a half minutes was a flurry of activity with eight lead changes or ties. In fact, the lead changed five times in the last minute of the game.

Trailing 39-38 with 11 seconds to go in the game, after being fouled, Red Bay senior Gath Weatherford stepped up to the free-throw line and calmly hit two clutch free-throws to put the Tigers on top 40-39. After a timeout, Vincent’s Johntavius Keith inbounded the ball to a teammate, who immediately got the ball back to Keith, who then dribbled the length of the court and hit a layup with four seconds left on the clock to get the win.

“We just got beat in a foot race to the other end,” said Torisky. “When he broke free, I knew he was going to take the shot; we could only hope he missed it, and he didn’t.”

Braden Ray led Red Bay with 13 points, going 7-for-8 from the free-throw line. Clay Allison followed with nine points, going 5-for-6 from the free-throw line. Colton Corum and Weatherford added seven points each. Brewer and Tanner Hamilton finished the game with two points each.

Red Bay’s season ends with a 27-6 record.

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