Roberts scored his lone field goal as time expired, lifting the Cougars to a thrilling 57-55 win over Sullivan Central during a Big 9 Conference tilt Friday night at the Dickie Warren Dome.
With 1.8 seconds remaining, the junior stripped Sullivan South guard Weston Carr near midcourt, raced to the other end and narrowly beat the buzzer with a lay-in.
The scene sparked a joyous melee at halfcourt, where Central’s student body mobbed Roberts and the rest of the Cougars.
“I couldn’t get anything to go all night so I figured I had to make up for it somehow,” Roberts said. “I’m not sure it even beat the clock but I guess it did.”
Central coach Tony Vaughn had a more playful take on the situation.
“I told Carl after the game, ‘I’m grateful that you scored but you think you can do it in the first 31 minutes and 58 seconds next time?’” he joked.
Joking aside, this was a crucial result for the Cougars (10-12, 6-6). It halted a two-game league skid and, perhaps more importantly, pulled them within a game of fourth-place Tennessee High.
Central trailed 55-50 with 47 seconds to play, but five straight points from Patrick Albright — including a emphatic 3-point play — pulled the Cougars even.
South (8-15, 2-11) turned over the ball on its next two possessions, the last of which led to Roberts’ game-winner.
“I hate it for the kids because they’ve worked so hard,” Rebels coach Mark Pendleton said. “We’ve been close, especially last week against (Daniel) Boone and (Sullivan) East.
“Tonight we had another opportunity but it just didn’t go our way.”
Josh Kaiko finished with 18 points for Central. The Rebels were led by Tyler Ashworth, who scored 17.
“Our kids just hung in there,” Vaughn said. “We made a free throw here and a field goal there. As long as you keep plugging away, good things will happen.”
Earlier, in the girls’ game, Sullivan Central’s blistering start left South searching for answers.
A 30-1 run bridging the first and second quarters sent the Lady Cougars (10-12, 5-7) to a 64-61 victory. They had to hold on in the final stages, but hold on they did.
“It seems like we’ve done that a lot lately, get an early lead and try to hold on at the end,” Central coach Gary Surcey said. “We’ve been fortunate a few times lately to do that.”
Samantha Williams, who scored 26 points, had a chance to get South (16-6, 8-5) into overtime but her 3-pointer from the top of the key careened off the front of the rim as the final whistle blew.
Whitney Moody led all scorers with 29 points. She passed 1,000 points for her career earlier in the night.
“We were disappointed after Tuesday night’s game against (Sullivan) East,” Moody said. “But this conference is unpredictable and we feel we can beat anybody.”