Isaiah Todd hit a walk-off free throw with no time remaining in regulation, as Trinity Academy pulled off the upset victory, 61-60, over Holly Springs, a school expected to be a serious contender in the NCHSAA 4A playoffs. The game was the final contest in the Oak City Classic at Trinity Academy.
The Tigers (14-8, 5-2) only attempted four free throws during the game, hitting three of them, none bigger than the only free throw Todd made on the evening.
Golden Hawks guard Garrett Phillips hit a three from the corner to tie the game at 60 and most of the Trinity bench, including Todd and head coach Bryan Burrell, thought the game was heading into overtime. Someone alerted the coaching staff there was one second remaining. When Todd heard this he told his teammates and his entire mindset changed.
“At first I was just like the game is probably going to go into overtime,” Todd said. “But once I saw how they were covering us I said I was going to hit this shot, no matter what.”
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Todd got the ball in front of the Holly Springs’ bench, on the complete opposite end of the floor from his basket. He turned and attempted an almost full court heave, but was fouled by Marcus Elliott as the buzzer sounded. The officials put one second on the clock and awarded Todd three foul shots. The 6-9 forward/center missed the first, and hit the second, officially sealing the win for Trinity, leading the team with 20 points, 18 coming in the second half.
The Tigers trailed most of the game, but took the lead for the first time in the second half on a three-pointer from Todd. Trinity never trailed in the fourth and appeared to be on the way to victory with 41 seconds remaining after a jumper from Jake Bertolini-Felice to go up one. Moments later, Tyler Gill stole a pass and threw a lob to Todd, who dunked the ball, putting Trinity ahead by three.
Holly Springs (13-3, 6-0) never panicked, finding Phillips (12 points) in the corner, who drilled the triple, and it looked like the game was heading into overtime. Even Burrell thought his team would have to grind out an extra five minutes.
“Honestly I thought (regulation) was over,” Burrell said. “I was appreciative that we had one second left and we were able to play still, so it turned out in our favor.”
The game was billed as a match up of top big men in the state between Todd and Golden Hawks’ center Kadin Shedrick, a 6-10 University of Virginia commit, who finished with 21 points, but didn’t score in the final 2:47. Shedrick did have a big first half, scoring 12 points in the opening 16 minutes as Holly Springs led by six at the half.
Coming into the contest, the Golden Hawks were perfect against teams from North Carolina, falling to Morgan County (Ga.), by two on Dec. 21, and to Long Island Lutheran, 57-39, seven days later. Otherwise, Holly Springs has been dominant and expects to be one of the last 4A teams standing when the NCHSAA playoffs arrive. To say this win was big for Trinity is an understatement.
“I told the guys before the game that this is a great team,” Burrell said. “This team has a chance to win the 4A state championship and make a deep run. I told them if we prove that we can play with them tonight, anyone in our region we can play with during the state (tournament).”
Playing in front of UNC head coach Roy Williams, Todd also acknowledged what a win like this can do for the Tigers moving forward.
“It’s real big going into conference play,” Todd said. “It gives us confidence, and it shows how much we’ve grown since the first time we played a 4A team.”