In Friday night's John “Hot Rod” Williams Gold Dome Classic matchup between St. Amant and Airline, the Gators fought back from 10 down to beat the Vikings, 57-55.
In Friday night’s John “Hot Rod” Williams Gold Dome Classic matchup between St. Amant and Airline, the Gators fought back from 10 down to beat the Vikings, 57-55.
It was a thrilling comeback that showcased the grit of the veteran Gator squad, but it was all secondary to what happened before the game.
The family of John “Hot Rod” Williams was honored.
The tournament was named after Williams this summer. The St. Amant alum and former Cleveland Cavalier all-star passed away last year at the age of 53 following a battle with prostate cancer.
Also, the Airline basketball squad presented St. Amant High School with a check for more than $1,300 as they continue to rebuild after the devastating August flood. Airline raised the money in a car wash.
"I think the story of the night was them donating $1,300. The game is on the side," St. Amant head coach Travis Uzee said. "The fact that they took on a selfless project like that to donate us money, the game is secondary to that, and having Hot Rod's family here was great, too."
Airline raced out to a 16-12 lead in the first quarter. The Gators were able to keep things close because of 3-pointers from Jahnoi Daley and Jimmie Pittman.
However, the Vikings created some separation in the second. They stretched their advantage to 10 points.
Pittman did his best to keep St. Amant within striking distance once again.
He drilled back-to-back 3-pointers. His second trey was accompanied by a foul that turned it into a 4-point play.
This flurry by Pittman contributed to a 9-3 Gator run that trimmed the deficit to 31-27 at the half.
To start the third, Travis Cole made a layup that tied the game, but Airline quickly responded with a 6-0 run.
After being held to just 2 first-half points, Kameron Kelson finally got into a rhythm. He scored 5 straight points for the Gators to get the deficit down to 40-38 heading into the fourth quarter.
Trailing by 4 in the final period, Terique Daley nailed a 3-pointer, and Kelson later made a put-back to tie the game.
Cole then came up with a big steal and finished with a layup equipped with a foul. When he made the free throw, the Gators were up by 3.
Late in the game, clinging to the lead and desperate for stops, Richard Williams drew a huge charge that helped St. Amant ice away the victory.
"It says a lot about our kids. We are a very resilient bunch," Uzee said. "They stick together, they play together, they hang out together and they're going to fight to the very end together. That's what we've been doing. We did it all last year. This is the first game this year that has been really tight like that, and I'm not surprised we pulled it out.
Pittman led the way for the Gators as he finished with a game-high 17. Kelson wasn’t far behind with 14, and Cole chipped in with 11.
The win was the sixth straight for St. Amant.
They ended up finishing the tournament with a 3-1 record. That mark bumped their overall record to 7-2.
"I think that it's been a combination of kids stepping up. We had some kids in foul trouble, so we've been playing 10 and 11 guys each game," Uzee said. We're just stepping up and trying to hold the rope and keep going to the next guy.
"You have to give a lot of credit to our kids. They're resilient. They work hard. It's been a crazy couple of months, but they don't care. They just go out and play basketball the best they can."