Last season, the Banks County High School boys' basketball team got pushed into overtime during its region road trip to Social Circle.
During Friday's trip (Jan. 10), overtime looked possible, but the Leopards made sure that wasn't going to happen again.
Banks County defeated Social Circle 46-39. The Leopards outscored Social Circle 18-13 in the fourth quarter to put the game away including 11 points from the charity stripe.
It was the lowest points-producing win for the Leopards all season, which head coach Mike Cleveland attributed to not shooting the basketball well during the game.
"If we made some of the open looks, we win the thing by 15-20 points," he said. "We didn't shoot as well as we have been, and the score indicates that, too, which (Social Circle) plays slow. I just thought we didn't shoot it well."
Cleveland was proud of how the defense handled the second half, limiting Social Circle's scoring chances and contesting shots.
"Defensively, I thought we did a really good job, especially late," he said. "They've got some kids who can score, but I thought we did a really good job on both of those kids late. Stepped up and made some free throws ... good win on the road, hostile environment. We'll take that."
Carl Cleveland led the team in scoring with 19 points. Pierce Martin dropped nine points and Clay Gosnell chipped in with eight.
"At this point, every opponent is the same as far as (the) loss column," the coach said referencing region play. "You just have to take care of it one game at a time. I know that's cliche, but it's the truth this time of year."
The Leopards control their destiny when it comes to region seeding.
"If you want to stay in first place and get the bye and everything that comes with that, you've just got to take care of every opponent," the coach said, "because a loss against anybody else counts the same as a loss against these guys. It doesn't matter what place your opponent is in."
The low-scoring game saw Banks County start slow as the team didn't connect for a bucket until Gosnell hit one nearly two minutes into the contest. Then, C. Cleveland ran off six-straight points to help the Leopards hold an 8-7 lead after the first quarter.
In the second, Cleveland, Martin and Dakota Orr helped lift the Leopards to a 19-12 lead. The lead wasn't safe, though, as Social Circle closed the first half on an 8-0 run including five points in the last 35 seconds of the half to take the lead 20-19 at the break.
The third quarter was a back-and-forth affair that saw the lead change hands five times. C. Cleveland hit a floater to give the Leopards a 21-20 lead with 6:06 left. With 4:56 left, Social Circle hit a 3-pointer to take the lead back, 23-22. Gosnell responded with a layup to give Banks County a 24-23 lead. At the 2:47 mark, Social Circle went ahead again with a 3-pointer, 26-25. But a Martin 3-pointer with 39 seconds left in the quarter put Banks County back ahead entering the final frame, 28-26.
After Social Circle tied the game with a bucket with 6:30 left to play (28-28), Sawyer Pace hit the go-ahead 3-pointer to put the Leopards ahead for good. Garrett Presley followed with a bucket off a rebound. Then, Gosnell connected for two free throws with 4:44 left, and the Leopards led 35-28.
Social Circle cut the lead to 37-34 but couldn't get closer as Cleveland, Martin, Gosnell, Presley and Pace all hit free throws down the stretch to put the win away.