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Basketball: Payne Smith's game-winning shot helps War Eagles overcome Longhorns
South Forsyth's Payne Smith shoots a 3-pointer under defense from Lambert's Cameron Bland during a Region 6-7A matchup Tuesday at home. (Photo by Paul Ward)

In Payne Smith's freshman year, he’s already made a name for himself on the South Forsyth boys basketball team.

With 28.1 seconds left, Smith drilled a deep wide-open 3-pointer to break Lambert’s winning streak for a 62-59 victory Tuesday night at home.

“My team got the ball and I was waiting in the corner, then they found me open,” Smith said on the game-winning play. "I shot it with confidence, and it went in."

Both teams are now part of a group of four schools tied for third in the six-team Region 6-7A standings.

The first score of the game came when Niko Wilson grabbed an offensive rebound, and Keenan Gagen finished the play by knocking down a 3-pointer from the wing.

James Tyre made a flashy play by jumping in the air for a one-handed steal, and Wilson finished off the possession with a 3-pointer from the corner. Nonetheless, off an inbounds, Ron Kommoji passed to Caleb Underwood for a 3-pointer to cut within one point of Lambert's lead at 6-5.

Smith got a hand on Tyre’s 3-pointer attempt, and on the other end, Charlie Gersmehl found Smith to capitalize on the block. 

Jackson Spitzer drove in the paint but decided to be smart with the ball by not forcing a shot. Instead, he found Smith at the wing to knock down the triple to retake the lead.

Going to the rim, Tyre got blocked by Gabe Mullis. After a few near turnovers, Underwood put the ball in the hoop to extend the War Eagles' lead to 15-9. 

With three seconds left, Mullis spotted Smith at the corner, and he knocked it down for the buzzer-beater.

To begin the second quarter, Lambert coughed up the ball. South capitalized off it, with Mullis pivoting around Will Dopfer to get a good look at the rim to finish with a sky hook.

It was back-and-forth action between the two teams. Tyre finished with a flashy move to the rim. Then on the other end of the court, Smith hit a 3-pointer from the corner for a 20-16 lead. 

Lambert crawled its way in to retake the lead with Tyre’s basket. Although Smith continued to fire away from 3 — this time in transition.

With the final seconds of the half, Mullis was able to clean the offensive board and get a second chance to beat the buzzer.

In the second half, Smith knew he was in sync from beyond the arc and didn’t shy away — whether he was open or had a defender in his face.

On one possession, Cam Bland got the steal and tried to go coast to coast but got fouled. His free throws gave the Longhorns a 40-39 lead.

Then with 2:40 left, Bland dribbled to the paint with a euro step but missed the shot. However, he was able to recover the rebound and finish the possession.

Lambert got their biggest separation in the second half when Gagen grabbed a rebound and Wilson passed the ball to Bland to grow the lead to 47-41 with a 3 from the corner with 56.7 seconds left in the third quarter.

Lambert scored twice on second-chance opportunities, then a great defensive effort by Tyre kept the play alive before Gagen finished the play to bump the lead to 59-55 with 1:41 left to play.

Smith knocked the 3-pointer to give South a 60-59 lead.

Longhorn coach Clay Wages gave Tyre the “OK” for him to ISO and try to answer back with a 3 of his own to switch the momentum, but the senior couldn’t cash in. 

Underwood sank two free throws for a 62-59 lead, but there was still time on the clock for Lambert’s offense.

This time, Wages gave the ball to his leading scorer in the game. Bland had a great look at the rim, but he either couldn’t knock down the 3 as the buzzer went off to end the game.

South Forsyth (6-12, 1-2) will return to action against Milton Jan. 13. Meanwhile, Lambert (11-6, 1-2) will look to regroup when it hosts Forsyth Central the same night.