Haworth’s Jerry Threadgill Jr. knocked down a 3-pointer and immediately gave a smirk and a glare to the nearest Millwood defender.
The third-quarter bucket was much more than just three points for the Lions. It was a sign of the fearlessness they would use to knock off the heavily favored Falcons, 66-64 in the Class 2A state semifinals at State Fair Arena.
“(Playing fearless) is my mentality and our whole teams mentality,” said Threadgill, who finished with 13 points off the bench. “It was just another game to us. We respect everyone, but we come out and play with the same attitude against everyone. We’ve talked all year about getting here and coming away with the gold ball.”
Hayden Grimes gave Haworth (28-4) its first lead of the second half on a 3-pointer early in the third quarter, and later gave the Lions their decisive points in the closing seconds.
With Haworth leading 64-62, Junior Griffin missed two free throws with 10 seconds to play, but Grimes came from outside the lane to grab the offensive rebound and converted two free throws to put Haworth up for good.
“I’ve been doing that my whole high school career,” said Grimes, who finished with 13 points. “When we’re shooting free throws I love to crash the boards. I was just talking to myself at the line, just trying to stay calm and not pay attention to the crowd.”
With several players in foul trouble on both sides, the generously listed 5-foot-7 Threadgill was forced to guard 6-foot-4 Millwood star Ashford Golden man-to-man down the stretch. Golden had his moments, scoring a game-high 21 points, but was often forced to hit tough shots while going 7-of-17 from the field.
“Height don’t mean nothing to me,” Threadgill said. “All you’ve got to do is get up in them, put a hand in their face, and you’ll be good. That’s what I’ve got in my head all the time. I don’t care who it is, I’m going to work my hardest on defense.”
Haworth moves on to play defending champion Latta in the finals at State Fair Arena on Saturday night with a tip-off set for 9:15 p.m. Latta defeated Haworth, 54-51, in the area championship last weekend.
“They got us in area, but we’re coming (on Saturday),” Threadgill said. “We aren’t going to come in with a big head or anything, but we’re coming for that gold ball.”