It may be mid-November, but Thursday night surely felt like a tournament atmosphere at Cascade High School.
After forcing overtime against visiting Cannon County (0-1), it was the heroics by Lucas Clanton in the final seconds of the extra period that lifted Cascade to a thrilling 69-68 win over the Lions.
Cascade (2-0) had to counter the efforts of Cannon County’s Gus Davenport, who scored a game-high 39 points.
Davenport broke a 66-66 tie with five seconds left in overtime with a pair of free throws, giving the Lions a 68-66 lead.
Having to go the length of the floor, Cascade was able to execute in the clutch and found a Clanton waiting in front of the goal, where he connected on the tying shot and was fouled in the process.
He went to the line and sank what proved to be the game-winner.
“You need players to step up in big moments. That’s what I told the guys in the locker room. We found out a lot about ourselves. I said No. 1, we found out we can win when we’re down by two with five seconds to go and we have to go the length of the floor,” Champion coach Chris Lawson said.
“I have to give our guys credit. We got the ball down the floor and got it in the middle, Lucas just faced up and made a play. That’s not an easy thing to do.”
Davenport highlighted the efficient Lion offense throughout the first half.
He was able to work his way to the line and made good on 5-of-6 attempts in the first quarter, while Theo Winters and A.J. Armstrong each added five points, including a 3-pointer.
Cascade, meanwhile, relied on big-man Justis Carter, who scored nine of his team-high 27 points in the second period to keep Cascade within seven points at the break.
Carter, who provided the steady source of offense for Cascade was able to counter Davenport’s efforts and battled his way to the line, where he connected on 7-of-13 attempts.
After trailing by seven at the half, the Champs erased the Lions’ advantage with a 21-point effort in the third quarter, highlighted by an 11-2 run to open the period.
Carter continued to get his offensive production and added five more points in the quarter as well.
“He (Carter) does what he always does. He provided us with solid scoring production around the basket, rebounding and he shot pretty well from the free throw line. He found ways to get to the free throw line. He got in a little bit of foul trouble, he and Lucas both did, but we kind of worked through that. It’s another solid effort out of Justis,” Lawson said.
Cascade posted its biggest lead of the game early in the fourth after a pair of baskets by Clanton and a layup by Chance Brown at the 6:28 mark.
Cannon County answered on a pair of key baskets by Davenport with 5:30 to go, pulling the Lions within one possession.
Davenport later tied the game at 61 apiece on a shot with 25 seconds left in regulation.
Cascade had a chance to win in regulation, but a miss in the closing seconds allowed Davenport to force a jump ball as time expired, setting up the thrilling overtime finish.
Fans from both schools packed Cascade’s gym to the fullest capacity in nearly two years, mirroring a tournament environment with the barn-burner finish.
“It was awesome. It was packed on both sides. It was rocking,” Lawson said.
In addition to Davenport’s game-high 39, Armstrong and Winters hit double figures and added 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Carter’s 27 was the top mark for Cascade, with Clanton adding 19. Brown added nine off the bench as well.
The raucous crowd brought both a positive and a negative for the Champs, according to Lawson.
“As far as a positive, we’ve got a ton of support that will only grow as we move through the season. But also a negative right now that we have some guys who can play who have never experienced that type of environment,” Lawson said.
“We had two players in double figures. After that, it drops off pretty quick. We’re capable of having five or six guys in double figures. We didn’t shoot the ball extremely well tonight. I think part of that is not being used to playing in that kind of crowd.”
Still, even with the energy and the crowd, Lawson was pleased with the never-quit mentality of his team that led to the win.
“It’s easy to give up. But our guys just don’t give up. They always find a way to compete and fight. That’s what they did tonight and it resulted in us pulling that game out,” Lawson said.
Cascade will be back on its home floor with another non-district matchup on Monday against Nolensville.
Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
Cannon Co. 17 15 12 19 7 — 68
Cascade 11 14 21 15 8 — 69
Cannon Co.: Gus Davenport 39, A.J. Armstrong 12, Theo Winters 10, Jonathan Fann 4, Eli Pelham 3.
Cascade: Justis Carter 27, Lucas Clanton 19, Chance Brown 9, Jackson Davis 6, Thomas Gentry 5, Jayden Gulick 3.
3-Point goals: Cannon Co. (7): Winters 2, Armstrong 2, Davenport 2, Pelham; Cascade (3): Brown, Gentry, Davis.
Halftime score: Cannon Co. 32, Cascade 25.