SOUTH BOSTON — Handley High School’s dream of its first boys’ basketball state championship is still alive, but the Judges had to work overtime to make it happen.
Demitri Gardner scored all five of Handley’s points in overtime and the Judges overcame blowing a five-point lead with 12 seconds left in regulation to top Halifax County 52-49 in the Class 4 state semifinals.
Handley (11-0) will host Smithfield, a 56-49 winner over Eastern View, on Saturday in the state championship game at Maddex-Omps Gymnasium. Game time will be announced.
The semifinal clash was a nail-biter throughout.
The Judges, who led 23-19 at the half, briefly trailed in the third quarter (24-23), but led 36-33 after the period. Chaz Lattimore’s basket early in the fourth period pushed the Handley lead to 40-36, but the Judges would struggle with a halfcourt trap from the Comets (3-3) that forced four consecutive turnovers.
Jaden Waller’s hoop tied the game at 40 and the two teams would battle down the stretch in regulation from there.
Five consecutive points from Gardner would put Handley ahead 45-40 with 3:10 left. And the Judges appeared to have the game in hand after Ke’Mani Curry drilled two free throws with 12 seconds left to make it 47-42.
Halifax got even in dramatic fashion. Kevon Ferrell made two free throws with 5.9 seconds left. And after the Judges missed the front end of a one-and-one with 4.9 remaining, the Comets were able to get the ball up the floor and have it out of bounds along the right sideline.
They got the ball in to Keshawn Wells, who shot a rainmaker 3-pointer from well behind the top of the key and hit nothing but net as the buzzer sounded to tie it at 47.
Halifax, which won a five-overtime game in the regional semifinals, had the momentum and had six shots at the basket on its first possession before Ferrell scored to make it 49-47.
Handley had only a free throw to show for itself until Gardner nailed a 3-pointer with 39.2 left. Kameron Roberts would miss a shot and then the front end of a one-and-one with 12.6 left. After being fouled with 9.6 left, Gardner made the first free throw but missed the second.
The Comets had one more try to send it to a second overtime, but Ferrell’s 3-pointer was well off the mark.
Gardner led the Judges with 26 points and eight rebounds. Curry had 12 points and Lattimore added six points and eight boards. Handley was 20 of 52 from the floor and had 15 turnovers.
Ferrell and Waller had 14 points each to lead the Comets, who shot 19 of 60 from the floor and had 13 turnovers.
For more coverage, see Friday's edition of The Winchester Star.