Mars Hill junior Hugh Hargett crossed the finish line in a draw with 9.4 seconds left in the Class 2A boys state semifinal on Monday night.
Hargett had the weight of her school and community on her shoulders and a spot in the school’s first state title game in two decades.
Hargett drained two free throws and the Panthers recorded another upset on their stunning playoff run, knocking out No. 5 Highland Home 64-62 at Legacy Arena.
RELATED: Rewind of Monday’s semi-finals
Mars Hill will face Section, winner of Lanett earlier in the day, for the 2A Boys Championship at 10:45 a.m. Friday.
“I knew everyone in the gym on our side was counting on me,” Hargett said. “It’s a lot of pressure, but I managed to overthrow them.”
Highland Home (28-5) had one more chance but returned the ball without shooting. Ball game.
“I try to challenge our guys to play free and be who we are,” Mars Hill coach Jim South said. “We didn’t hesitate at this moment tonight. We continued to do what we do. I trust Hugh, and I trust all of our guys to do the open shot. We don’t have a lot of red lights on our guys. We release them and let them play.
Mars Hill (15-16) trailed Highland Home 55-48 with 5:40 to go after Jakaleb Faulk’s layup. Faulk and older brother Keldric dominated on the bottom, combining for 37 points and 19 rebounds. However, Jakaleb fouled out in the fourth quarter and Keldric played most of the game at fault.
“The big problems hurt us, of course,” said Highland Home coach Jonny Mitchell. “At first we saw that the officials were going to call the charge against No. 12 (Joshua Bowerman). It looked to me like he was a flop. I don’t know what the deal was. We were called for five or six charges that we normally don’t get called in. It made a huge difference and got our guys in trouble.
The last charge – against Jakaleb Faulk – was the most important. Highland Home were still ahead 55-50 at the time. Faulk was called for his fourth foul, then called for a technical. It sent Hargett to the free throw line and meant Faulk was done for the game. Hargett had two free throws, then buried a 3 for a five-point possession.
Suddenly the game was tied 55-55 with 4:13 to go.
“I didn’t see what happened technically,” South said. “I was just proud of my team for the character we showed. We did a good job of keeping a cool head in a tough environment against a tough team. No.15 (Keldric Faulk) is a great, great player, but we were able to show our character in difficult times.
There were four lead changes in the final minutes. Highland Home led 62-59 after a breakaway dunk from Faulk with 59 seconds left. Hargett tied the game with his fourth 3-pointer of the game 13 seconds later.
“Looking at the stat sheet, I didn’t shoot that well – 6 of 18,” Hargett said. “But my teammates trust me and I trust myself.”
Both teams missed late chances to reclaim the lead before Hargett’s free throws eventually won it.
Game Star: Hargett didn’t have the best shooting night overall, but hit the shots when they mattered most. He was 4 of 13 from 3 and 7 of 8 from the foul line.
Stat Sheet: Mars Hill – Bowerman finished with 14 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Connor Pigg scored 9 and Carson Thrasher scored 8. Highland House – Keldric Faulk, one of the top football rookies in the state in 2023, finished with 21 points and 17 rebounds. Jakaleb Faulk had 16 points.
By the numbers: Mars Hill was 20 of 49 from the field, 10 of 29 from the 3-point line and 14 of 20 from the free throw line. Highland Home were 25 of 49 from the field, 2 of 11 of 3 and just 10 of 25 from the foul line. The squad won the rebound battle 42-23 and had 17 offensive rebounds.
Did you know? Highland Home has never won a state championship in any sport.
Coach language: “I’m so excited about the result. I couldn’t be happier. We have had ups and downs this season. We had our ups and downs tonight, but we were resilient. I think 12 (Bowerman) took maybe 5 charges tonight. We got timely rebounds, hit timely shots. It was a big, big win. ” – South
They said it:
“We try to be the group that sets the standard here – not just winning for us, but building a legacy for this school and athletic program.” – South.
“It means a lot. We definitely worked for it, worked to get here. We wanted to go to the state championship. Once you get here (Birmingham) your case doesn’t matter. We are all 0-0. Everyone has the same chance. – Hergett.
“It’s the first time I’ve looked at the stat sheet. We were 10 of 25 from the free throw line in a two-point game. I’m sure a few of them were front ends. You don’t have to look any further than that to see the difference in the game.” – says Mitchell.
Next : Mars Hill will play Section for the Class 2A State Championship at 10:45 a.m. Thursday. Mars Hill has never won a state basketball championship. The section has not won since 2003.