After the Cavaliers took their final lead of the night on a Nehemiah Jones bucket with 21 seconds left, the Tigers got the ball back with a chance to win it.
As the play unfolded, Troup head coach Thermond Billingslea thought about calling timeout, but he decided to let things play out.
That strategy paid big dividends when Lakeithin Buckner, who led all scorers with 20 points, found Daryl Dunlap for an uncontested layup with three seconds left to give the Tigers the lead.
The Cavaliers didn’t have enough time left to get a shot away, and the Tigers escaped with a 70-69 victory to improve to 5-3.
“I was getting ready to get it (a timeout), and he crossed halfcourt, so I said, we might as well go with it because we’re already in motion,” Billingslea said. “I didn’t want to start again.”
Buckner looked like he was about to hoist up a shot, but he spotted Dunlap alone under the basket, so he fed him the ball for an easy score.
It was, Callaway head coach Terry Hayes said, a major defensive miscue.
“We had a mental breakdown by the goal down there,” Hayes said. “My guy was a spectator. It costs us.”
It was a fantastic ballgame filled with terrific individual performances and numerous changes in momentum.
The Tigers took a 58-48 lead into the fourth period, but the Cavaliers roared back and tied it at 60-60 with 5:10 remaining on a Tyrell Tigner basket.
About 30 seconds later, Tigner made two free throws to give the Cavaliers the lead, but the fun was just getting started.
In the final four minutes, neither team led by more than a point, and they exchanged the lead eight times over that stretch.
With 2:26 remaining, Dunlap scored to put the Tigers up 68-67, and although they only scored once more in the game, it was just enough.
Jones’ basket with 21 seconds left was Callaway’s only basket in the final two minutes.
The Cavaliers fell to 1-4, but they’ve lost those four games by a combined 16 points, and they’ve lost two games to Troup by a total of four points.
“We just have to stop beating ourselves and just finish games,” Hayes said.
The Tigers have had their share of close games as well, and they’ve managed to win a bunch of them.
“We thought maybe we can win one or two in the process while we’re learning,” said Billingslea, whose team has just one returning starter. “We’re going to struggle. I know that. But we’re working to get better.”
The Tigers finished the first quarter on an 8-0 run to take a 19-14 lead, and they led by as many as 14 points in the second period on the way to a 37-26 lead at the break.
The Cavaliers stormed back in the third period to take a 45-44 lead with 2:58 showing on the clock after back-to-back baskets by Brandon Bridges, but the Tigers ended the quarter on a 14-4 run to take a 58-48 lead.
The Cavaliers then went on a 14-2 run in the fourth period to take the lead and set up the thrilling finish.
While Buckner led Troup with 20 points, Demetrious Trammell had a big night as well with 15 points, and Dunlap added 12 points.
Tigner paced the Cavaliers with 16 points, and Patrick Strickland added 10 points, with eight of those points coming in the first quarter.
Both teams will be at home for games today, with Callaway facing Lanett (Ala.) and Troup playing Northside.