By Jonathan Deal
Tanner head coach Chris Whitt knew it would be tough. The Rattlers defeated West Limestone in two previous games this season by a combined five points.
On Friday, it took overtime and a last second basket from JonJon Fletcher for Tanner to beat West 55-54 and advance to the Limestone County Tournament Championship game.
“We didn’t expect anything different,” said Whitt. “They are a solid team. They struggled a little bit in the first half, but just kept coming back.”
Tanner lead by as many as 11 points and by six entering the fourth quarter, but West would not give up and finally tied the game with 32 seconds remaining.
Hunter Morgan scored the final six points of regulation to force overtime for West Limestone. The junior finished with 18 points before fouling out with 3:41 in overtime.
After Fletcher hit 1 of 2 free throws to give Tanner a 53-52 lead with 13 seconds left in OT, Grant Baugher drove down the crowd and was sent to the free throw line for a foul along the base line.
With seven seconds remaining, Baugher converted both free-throw attempts for to give West Limestone its first lead of the game at 54-53.
But Tanner would not be denied. Fletcher took the end bounds pass 80 feet down court, drove hard to the basket and put Tanner ahead with 1.7 seconds left on the clock.
“I called timeout before those free throws and told them if they go up to get it to JonJon,” said Whitt. “I told him to get the ball to the goal.”
Fletcher finished with a game-high 25 points. Desmond Love added 14 for Tanner. Baugher had 15 for West while Jeremy Romine added 12.
Tanner won the regular season games 53-49 and 42-42 last month.
Tanner advanced to play East Limestone Saturday at 7:30 p.m. for the Limestone County Championship.