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Williams' game-winner gives Ashley historic victory

Ashley's Tony Mack takes a 3-pointer against New Hanover Friday night at Ashley High School. (Photo by Photo By: Jeff Janowski/StarNews Media)

Before Friday night, T.J. Williams had never made a game-winning shot. He picked a heck of a time to make his first.

The Ashley senior's thunderous put-back dunk as time expired gave the Screaming Eagles their first-ever boys basketball win against New Hanover, 50-49 at Ashley on Friday.

"It was the best moment for anybody's career," Williams said. "I've never experienced anything like that. I've never been bum-rushed by a crowd; I've never made a game-winning shot. So it was amazing."

With 33 seconds left, New Hanover's Tyree Johnson hit two free throws to put the Wildcats up 49-48, and that initially appeared to be enough. Ashley's ensuing offensive possession resulted in confusion underneath the basket and the ball went out of bounds with 4.3 seconds remaining.

Things got messier when New Han-over (7-6, 1-1 Mideastern Conference) disrupted Ashley's designed play out of a timeout, and the Eagles were faced with another inbounds play with 3.7 seconds left on the clock and no timeouts remaining to draw anything up.

The Eagles ran their standard out-of-bounds play instead, giving the ball to Ridell Camidge on the baseline. Camidge drove and tossed up a runner which bounced off the rim. Williams, crashing to the basket, threw it down.

"I saw the ball at the rim, and I saw that it wasn't going in." Williams said. "It's a dunk that I've made probably 1,000 times. I think it was the basketball gods hitting me with a lightning bolt to go get it."

Williams said he was motivated to end Ashley's 18-game, 10-year losing streak against a county rival, and showed it by dominating the final minute of the game. With Ashley (11-3, 2-0) trailing by two in the final minute, Williams blocked two shots, including snuffing out what appeared to be a sure-fire fast-break dunk.

For the game, Williams finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and seven blocks. After the game, he was mobbed by Ashley students rushing the court.

The late-game heroics almost weren't possible. New Hanover led from the second quarter on based on 14 points and 12 rebounds from forward Nigel Holley. Holley also frustrated Williams with stingy defense in the post and drew the fourth foul on Williams with 3:28 remaining in the third quarter. Williams sat on the bench for the rest of the third and much of the fourth quarters.

But Ashley ratcheted up the defensive pressure in his absence, turning to guard play to keep the score close. Camidge led all scorers with 16 points, and Tony Mack created three critical fourth-quarter turnovers by harassing New Hanover guards.

"If he doesn't get those stops and have those defensive plays – it's all him," Ashley coach Bryn McSwain said. "Three turnovers by himself. He willed us to get our hands back on the ball."

McSwain added that Friday's win was a huge boost – not just for the season, but for the program as a whole.

"I'm glad those kids got to feel that and be on that floor. So many kids never get to do that. You could feel the energy and emotion that poured out of those stands."