Craig’s buzzer beater in OT lifts Ellwood to Regional win

Published 9:51 pm Friday, February 17, 2017

Ellwood Christian’s first ever Central Regional basketball game ended in one of the biggest wins in school history.

Loveless Craig made a last second layup as time expired in overtime as the Eagles stunned Notasulga for a 48-47 win.

Craig’s final shot came after a long Ellwood possession where it looked like nothing was happening. Ellwood’s Joseph Malone missed a 3-pointer from the corner with only seconds remaining, but Craig got the rebound, put it back up and somehow beat the horn.

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“When I got the rebound, I said to myself that I didn’t have enough time, so I had to go straight back up,” Craig said with a smile.

This is the first time Ellwood has ever qualified to play in the regional portion of the Alabama High School Athletic Association playoffs, and it’s not a memory they’ll soon forget. The Eagles somehow staved off elimination and are now three wins from a 1A state championship.

“I didn’t want to go home,” Craig said.

The game had been back and forth the entire second half. Chris Lee made five first half 3-pointers and actually equaled Notasulga with 19 points in the first half to give the Eagles a 24-19 lead at the break. He finished with a game high 26 points and 13 rebounds.

“He came out hot and in our locker room, we said somebody needs to play with Chris,” said Ellwood Christian coach Darrell Walker. “Somebody needs to step up and play with Chris and once we called them out, Love stepped up to the challenge.”

Craig finished with 16 points for the Eagles. Bufford was the only other Ellwood player to score and he had 6 points.

Ellwood scored the first two baskets of the second half on layups by Justin Bufford and Craig to up its lead to nine. Notasulga responded with a 10-3 run to tie the game at 29-29.

From that point on, neither team led by more than three.

Tyre Edwards and Cornelius Hunt made back to back shots to put the Blue Devils up 40-37 in the closing minute, but Ellwood refused to go away.

Down two late, Lee grabbed a Craig missed and put it up and in to tie the game at 40 in the closing seconds. Notasulga turned the ball over on its last possession and a final heave by the Eagles was wide.

Overtime stuck with the theme of regulation, with both teams holding shortlived leads. The lead changed hands seven times in overtime.

Notasulga took a 47-46 lead on Demarcus Kyles shot with half a minute to play, but Craig’s layup closed the deal for the Eagles.

Ellwood will move on to play Cornerstone Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. in the Central Regional Championship game. The winner will move on to play in Birmingham.

“We can’t go home,” Walker said. “We’re having too much fun to go home.”