Madison County senior Bradley Raines has taken plenty of shots in his high school career, none bigger than his final attempt Saturday night.
Raines drilled a deep three-pointer at the buzzer as Madison County (22-6) stunned Clarke Central 60-57 in the third-place game at the Region 8-AAAA tournament.
Raines, who led the Red Raiders with 24 points and 12 rebounds, said he’s never hit a game-winner in any level of competition.
“I’ve been wanting to hit a game-winning shot ever since I started playing basketball,” he said.
With the win, Madison County was able to exact revenge for its 59-54 loss to the Gladiators Jan. 29 and win the season series with Clarke Central 2-1.
“We had said if we got to play them again, we knew we weren’t going to lose,” Raines said.
Clarke Central (18-6) tied the game at 57 with when Marquis Faust hit a free throw with 4.3 seconds left. Faust, however, missed his second attempt. Madison County hurried down the court and a wide-open Raines let the ball fly with a second left.
Raines – who scored the last seven points of the game for Madison County – said he was confident he would knock down the game winner.
“Yeah, I said, ‘I’m going to hit this and we’re going to win the game,’” he said. “It felt good.”
It looked like Madison County and Raines wouldn’t have that chance with a minute left as Madison County trailed 56-51.
But Patrick McCrary, who finished with 15 points, hit a pair of free throws with 43 seconds remaining to cut the lead to 56-53. Raines then followed with back-to-back baskets to put Madison County up 57-56, his second being a huge tip-in with 12 seconds left.
Stan Maxwell then fouled Faust with 4.3 seconds remaining, putting the Gladiator senior point guard at the line where he’d have a critical miss on his second try.
Clarke Central was 1-for-4 from the charity stripe in the final minute.
Madison County now heads into the state tournament as a no. 3 seed with a 22-6 record, as its remarkable turnaround season continues. The program will make its first state playoff appearance in 13 years.
“I’m proud of all these guys,” coach Steve Crouse said. “They’ve worked so hard to get where we haven’t been in a long time and that’s the state tournament.”
Of course, beating Clarke Central gives the Red Raiders a little extra swagger heading into state.
The two schools – separated by only about 20 miles -- are intense rivals in girls’ basketball already and seem to be developing a similar type series in boys’ hoops now with this most recent down-to-the-wire affair.
“I don’t know if they feel this way, but Clarke Central is becoming a pretty good rival for us,” Crouse said. “I told my guys, ‘Clarke Central.’ That’s about all you need to say.”
The hero of the night echoed his coach’s statement.
“It feels like we’ve got a little bit of a rivalry going on with them,” Raines said. “That feels good.”