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Spartanburg, SC – The Legend of Zion Williamson continues to grow.
Trailing 56-54 with 20.3 seconds remaining in the game, a hot shooting Greensboro Day School had possession of the ball and an opportunity to erase a 15-point fourth quarter deficit and tie the game or win it with a 3-pointer. But Williamson had other ideas.
In his last regular season game of his high school career on his home court, the 6-foot-7 senior All-American saved the day as he stole the ball and raced down the court to deliver a thunderous tomahawk slam, as the crowd erupted at the buzzer, to seal the 58-54 win for the Griffins over the Bengals on national television.
“I beat myself up because I missed a crucial 1-and-1 free throw,” said Williamson, referring to the missed front end of a 1-and-1 free throw opportunity that would have likely iced the game moments before the fateful steal and slam.
“They called timeout and we went to the huddle and coach (Lee) Sartor said to play strong defense, tight defense, and no gambling, but for me, I wanted to redeem myself,” he said. “I read the point guard’s eyes and I knew he was going to pass it before he passed it, and I seized the opportunity.”
“That last play tells you what kind of player Zion is,” Sartor said. “To get a steal and then make a dunk like that, the last play of his high school career here in this gym was pretty amazing. I think it might have been one of the best dunks I have seen him do.”
After a back-and-forth first half that saw Williamson score 15 of the Griffins 27 points and both teams tied at halftime, Spartanburg Day capitalized on strong defensive pressure to start the third quarter on a 9-0 run. Senior guard Kyle Tracy catapulted the Griffins with a 3-pointer to open up the quarter and then hit a layup, followed by a follow-up basket by Williamson, who had a game-high 30 points, to make it 36-27. The Griffins extended their lead to 46-31 to close out the quarter when Tracy lobbed an alley-oop to Williamson, who tossed it down with authority.
“I thought we played a great third quarter,” Sartor said. “We were able to go up some points, but they showed what kind of team they are and hit some big shots, and actually did a good job to put some of the pressure back on us.”
What Sartor was referring to was an unconscious fourth quarter by the Bengals, especially from the perimeter. Led by guards Carson McCorkle, Tripp Greene, and Austin Inge, Greensboro Day managed to overcome the Griffins lead by hitting five three-pointers in the quarter to cut their lead to just two on several occasions.
After a pair of free throws from Griffin's guard Chandler Lindsey gave Spartanburg Day a 56-52 advantage, it was McCorkle, who led the Bengals with 16 points, including nine in the quarter, who brought them back with a basket that nearly led to a three-point play with one minute remaining. But, after forcing Williamson to the charity stripe on the ensuing Spartanburg Day possession, where he missed the front end of the 1-and-1, the Bengals called a timeout to dial up a play. Though, it was Williamson who had another thought in mind by making “The Play” resulting in the crowd storming the court.
“I will always remember that,” Williamson said. “They came, stormed the court and started jumping and cheering with us. That is a memory that I’m going to always carry in my heart. That might be the best memory; my last game here, on ESPN, and I can’t think of a better way to go out with my brothers, and we got the win.”
“We won,” exclaimed Elizabeth Moore, a Spartanburg Day fan dressed in her red-clad sweatshirt. “What a great win.”
Spartanburg Day (15-8) will next play in the Conference Tournament Monday night at Wofford College. Greensboro Day (23-7) will play on Saturday at home against Forsyth Country Day School.