Chargers stun Tallahassee with furious comeback

Photo courtesy of Greg Rowland
Photo courtesy of Greg Rowland

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (November 23, 2019) – Georgia Highlands College erased an 18-point deficit over the final 3:54 to stun Tallahassee Community College, 83-82, on the final day of the Courtyard Tallahassee Downtown/Capitol Classic. 

The Eagles (7-1) lost for the first time in eight tries this season while Georgia Highlands evened its record at 4-4. 

As the clock hit the 4:00 mark of the second half, Tallahassee appeared poised to claim its eighth victory.  A four-point halftime lead swelled to as many as 19 on three different occasions, the last on Kailex Stephens' jumper with 4:37 left to give the Eagles a 78-59 lead, and Jordan Guest's basket in the paint kept the lead at 80-62 with 3:54 left in the game. 

Georgia Highlands hit one of two free throws on the ensuing possession then caught a break when the Eagles cut through the Chargers' full court pressure but were unable to convert a 2-on-1 opportunity, turning the ball over instead. 

Georgia Highlands scored on its next possession and, suddenly, the full court pressure wreaked havoc. In a little less than two minutes, Tallahassee committed five turnovers and had its only field goal attempt rim in and out from inside the paint. The Chargers, meanwhile, scored 15 unanswered points during that stretch to pull within 80-78 with still 1:31 left.   

Tallahassee shot an impressive 19-of-22 from the free throw line for the game but two of the misses came in the final 1:19, further opening the door for a GHC comeback. 

After Yahel Hill hit one of two to leave the Eagles' lead at 81-78, Georgia Highlands split a pair from the charity stripe but Trevin Wade came up with the Chargers' 20th – and final – offensive rebound, drew a foul and hit both shots to tie the game. 

Georgia Highlands' 20-8 advantage on the offensive glass translated into a plus-19 (23-4) on second chance points. 

After Hill hit one of two free throws again, Tajah Fraley scored in the paint to give GHC the 83-82 lead with 46 seconds left. Still facing full court pressure, Stephens sailed the inbounds pass out of bounds – the Eagles' 23rd turnover of the game (compared to 13 for the Chargers and an 18-9 advantage in points off). 

Tallahassee got a defensive stop when DeAndre Gholston drew a charge and had two shots in the final seconds but Hill's corner three-pointer was long and Guest's offensive putback was off the mark as the buzzer sounded. 

"This is definitely a tough one, but we have to overcome what just happened and get better," said Tallahassee head coach Zach Settembre. 

Despite outshooting the Chargers in each half and matching their 11 three-pointers, Settembre pointed to Georgia Highlands' plus-18 advantage on field goal attempts, the result of the second-chance opportunities and turnovers, as a statistic whose importance mounted as the clock wound down. 

While some teams will head into a prolonged Thanksgiving break, the Eagles will take Sunday off then head to Pensacola State College for three games in the Pirate Thanksgiving Classic, beginning at 5 p.m. Monday against Lamar (Texas) State College-Port Arthur, a best-case scenario under the circumstances, according to the Eagles' first-year head coach. 

"The good thing is we only have one day off then we get to go play in a big-time event (at Pensacola State College)," said Settembre. "I can't wait to get back to work with our guys." 

Four players scored in double-figures for Tallahassee, led by El Ellis with 16. Stephens added 15, Rifen Miguel had 11 and Hill, 10.

Tallahassee shot 15-of-27 (55.6 percent) in the second half, many of those the result of handling the Chargers' pressure with relative ease. For the game, the Eagles assisted on 20 of their 26 made field goals, led by Tariq Silver who dished out nine.

Tallahassee Community College Athletics would like to thank the Leon County Tourist Development Council and Chick-fil-A West Tennessee Street for its support of the Courtyard Tallahassee Downtown/Capitol Classic.

Courtyard by Marriott