Swain appeared to be in control over host Robbinsville on Friday night, up four with 23 seconds remaining in the game, but momentum would boomerang (or, given the speed and cadence of the tit-for-tat, ping-pong) before the final buzzer.
After taking the two-possession lead on made free-throws, Swain gave up a three-pointer to the Knights on the other end to cut the lead to a single point. Robbinsville quickly fouled to send the Devils to the free throw line with 15 seconds remaining in the game. A missed Swain free-throw gave Robbinsville the ball back again and the Knights capitalized on the opportunity with a converted layup to a one-point lead of their own.
With time running out, Swain inbounded the ball quickly and motored down the court. Senior Noel Wolf drove the ball baseline, but was cut off by a Robbinsville defender. He quickly kicked the ball to the top of the key to junior Carter Kirkland, who heaved a three-pointer just before the buzzer sounded. The shot fell through the net, giving Swain a 67-65 win. Somewhere, Swain’s own shooter Flatch was jumping up and down on his hospital bed.
“They were obviously super excited,” said Head Coach Scotty McMahan. “We’ve been trying to find out what our identity is all year as far as leadership and things like that and I thought in the second half of the Andrews game on Thursday we kind of got some of our unity back.”
Swain topped Andrews on Thursday by a score of 64-57 after trailing at halftime, then rode the momentum to the exhilarating win over Robbinsville 24 hours later on Friday. McMahan said that despite the physical demands of back-to-back games, the emotional boost his team gained from a strong second half against Andrews on Thursday helped them best Robbinsville on Friday.
“I think that if we’d have lost on Thursday it would have been tough to get back into it,” he said. “Kids are pretty resilient at times so you never know, but it would have been tougher. The first time we played these teams they were both missing players. Plus, we were on the road
On Thursday against Andrews, Judaiah Littlejohn paced Swain with 20 points. Joining him with double-figure scoring totals were Isaiah Collins with 11 and Cameron Blankenship with 10. A night later, Cooper Hyatt led Swain in scoring with 20 points against Robbinsville. Littlejohn added 15, while Kirkland and Collins chipped in 12 apiece against the Knights.
On Tuesday night, Swain defeated Highlands, 49-47, to push its record to 9-4 ahead of the regular season finale against Hayesville on Thursday.