Victory was so close the Yellow Jackets could taste it on Tuesday night before Woodruff’s Blake Bone spoiled the party with a last second shot to steal the 63-61 win.
With 29 seconds remaining in the game, Union County trailed by one point at 59-58. Coach Will Hickson wasted no time in making the call to send Woodruff to the line rather than allow them to run out precious clock time. Two free throws later, Woodruff had taken a 61-58 lead when Jackets point guard, Recus Hughes, drew a foul while driving the lane. Hughes knocked down the first and intentionally missed the second for Keiston Smith to lay it in and tie the game at 61-61.
Woodruff immediately called a timeout to set up a final play. The ball was inbounded and passed down to Bone who sank a 10-foot buzzer-beater.
“We’re just not finishing and that boils down to coaching,” declared Hickson. “We fought hard, we battled, but the free throw shooting and a few turnovers cost us.”
Union County got off to a rocky start, spotting Woodruff nine points in the opening minutes before Hughes knocked down a three-pointer to spark an 8-2 run.
The Jackets outscored Woodruff 15-14 in the second period, then went on a scoring spree midway through the third quarter. Hughes drove the lane twice and T.J. Foster hit a jumper from the free throw line to give Union County a 43-35 lead heading into the fourth.
Woodruff closed in during the final minutes and trailed by one point after hitting a three pointer from the wing.
Hughes drained three of four free throws and Smith scored four quick points off a fast break lay-up and a turnaround jumper to make it a 58-53 ball game.
The Wolverines returned the favor, scoring the next seven points to reclaim the lead, 59-58 on a put-back.
With less than 30 seconds remaining, Woodruff went to the line and connected on a pair before sending Hughes back to the line where he went one of two, intentionally missing the second shot. T.J. Foster was there for the rebound and dished it off to Smith who went up strong to tie the game at 61-61 before Bone sank the winning jumper for Woodruff.
Bone finished the night with 27 points. Union County was led by Hughes with 24 points. Tre Eison netted 13 points and Smith contributed 10 points. With the loss, Union County falls to 1-17 overall, 0-3 in Region III-AAA.
In girls action, the Lady Jackets steamrolled the Lady Wolverines, 64-42. CeeCee Moorman led the Union County scoring with 15 points. Kristin Giles added 13 and Cierra Mitchell chipped in 10 points. With the win, the Lady Jackets improve to 11-4 overall, 3-1 in the region.
Both boys and girls teams will hit the midway point of region play on Friday night when they travel to Clinton for a doubleheader.