RUSKIN — Robert Gant picked a dramatic time for his only basket of the game, hitting a 3-point buzzer beater in Lennard’s 54-51 Class 6A region quarterfinal win over Mitchell on Thursday night.
Coach Danny Gaddis actually set up a play for Caelen Watts, who scored a game-high 15 points. But Mitchell’s trap forced Watts to dish the ball off to Gant, who just got his shot from the top of the arc off in time.
“(Watts) lost the ball and time was going down, so I had to shoot it,” said Gant, one of six seniors on the best team in school history.
“Everybody came to me after and started jumping up and down. It was crazy.”
Added Gaddis: “We wanted Watts to take the final shot and it breaks down and Gant was there.”
It has been a record-breaking season for Lennard. The Longhorns (23-4) followed up their first district championship by winning their first playoff game (they lost to Gibbs as a district runnerup in their playoff debut last season).
“This whole run, that’s the whole community,” said Gaddis, who is in his fifth season at Lennard.
Mitchell (22-6) raced out to a 22-14 lead in the first quarter, capitalizing on its fast break and a handful of steals, and led 27-21 at the half.
“Every team has a run,” Gaddis said. “They happened to have theirs out of the gate and we withstood their best punch.”
Lennard scored 12 in the third quarter, matching its offensive output of the entire first half. The Longhorns closed out the quarter with a 6-0 run that brought them from a three-point deficit to a 42-39 lead.
After Mitchell’s Lawrence Watt completed a three-point play for a 39-36 lead, Lennard’s Watts made back-to-back layups, the second coming off a steal, to put his team ahead.
The game was then tied at 46, 48 and 51. Mitchell’s Bernie Conley made a driving layup for a tie at 51 with 1:01 left in the game before Lennard held the ball and let the clock wind down for Gant’s dramatic shot at the end.
Trey Jones added 14 and Gary Hector scored 11 for Lennard.
Mitchell had three players in double figures. Brian Powers scored 12, Sean Thompson had 11 and Watt 10.