Evans High School guard Troy Belton said earlier this season that the Knights liked to push the tempo.
Belton showed off his speed Tuesday, beating everyone down the floor for a lay-up with three seconds left to beat Laney 47-45 in the title game of the Robolli's Pizza Classic at Evans.
Belton's basket was part of a bizarre sequence in the closing seconds.
Laney guard Rod Hall hit a jump shot with a hand in his face to give the Wildcats a 1-point lead with 11 seconds left. While the Wildcats bench went wild, Belton grabbed the inbound pass and flew down the floor, sneaking a glance at Knights coach Kevin Kenny.
"He just told me to go," Belton said. "I went."
Belton made the layup in traffic, and Laney coach Justin Durham called a timeout he didn't have to stop the clock at 1.5 seconds and drew a technical foul.
Evans guard Anthony Williams made one of two free throws. The Knights inbounded with a lob to Troy Griffith, who appeared to catch the pass just inside the baseline and throw the ball into the air as time expired.
Griffith had seen the play work during a college basketball game he watched on television -- just throw it up and wait for the buzzer to sound. But the official ruled Griffith had stepped on the line, and the Wildcats were given possession near midcourt with 1.5 seconds still on the clock.
The Wildcats tried to screen for Hall, but the ball deflected off a player's foot and rolled free as time expired.
Hall scored 12 points during the fourth quarter to lead Laney's comeback. The Knights' 2-3 zone gave Laney's shooters fits throughout the game, but Hall overcame it and earned his opponents' respect.
"He just knocked down the big shots," said Evans guard Brandon McCladdie, who had a hand in Hall's face during his go-ahead basket. "He's a big-play player."
McCladdie was named the tournament's most valuable player. Known as a defensive specialist, McCladdie was urged by his teammates before the tournament to shoot more and take some pressure off teammates Anthony Williams and Tony Davis.
McCladdie responded by scoring the first 7 points during a semifinal win against Harlem and added 8 points during the first quarter against Laney.
"We have certain people that need to score, and he's one of them that needs to score more," Belton said. "We kind of told him that as a team."
McCladdie's penchant for defense is a carry-over from football, where he was a standout defensive back for the Knights. He'll likely sign a letter of intent in the spring to play football after his high school career is concluded.
He said his reputation as a defensive stopper on the court led him in the past to be timid about hoisting up shots. But he's being coaxed out of the mindset.
"My teammates have the confidence in me, telling me don't be scared to shoot," McCladdie said. "(I'm) just putting up more shots in practice, showing coach I can do it and him having a little confidence in me."
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