DULUTH — I came and saw the Ant Man. And in Ant Man, I now believe.
The venue was Notre Dame Academy (of Duluth, not South Bend) and the stage was the Region 1-AAA Tournament finals between rivals Holy Spirit Prep and The Heritage School (of Newnan, not Conyers). Anthony Edwards — aka, The Ant Man — stars for Holy Spirit. Lance Terry, I now know, stars for Heritage. When it’s not high school basketball season, the two star for the same Atlanta Xpress AAU team.
That must be a really good AAU team, because Ant Man and Terry (who should probably also have his own cool nickname) put on a whale of a show for the filled-to-bursting little gymnasium. Edwards scored 41 points, including a three-point play in overtime that gave his team a 79-77 lead with 4.6 seconds to play. Terry scored 34 points and made seven 3-pointers but not his team’s last one. That one was made by Heritage guard Kasen Jennings and it rattled in at the buzzer for a stunning 80-79 upset and the 1-AAA regional championship.
But the very meaningful competition being waged between two proud programs Friday night really was just a sideshow. Every bit of the focus and every ounce of attention from opening tip until the final horn was on the one they call Ant Man. Well, truthfully, everybody around HSP, as it appears on the school’s jerseys, just refers to him as Ant. He’s the featured act, the one everybody’s coming to see, and you could literally see it and hear it every time the ball touched his hands.
Being at Notre Dame Academy, and Notre Dame having already being eliminated in both the boys’ and girls’ tournaments, many of those in attendance Friday night were cheering for neither Heritage nor HSP. Mostly, they were just watching and waiting to see Edwards do something great. At one point, the students chanted “we want a windmill, we want a windmill.” And Edwards, almost dutifully, made sure they weren’t disappointed.
“I hear ’em; I know everybody’s coming to watch me,” Edwards said, trying not to brag as he said it. “I just try to come out and play for me, my team, my family, my school. I don’t really care what people see on Instagram or what they want to see I just try to get a win every night.”
Edwards actually started off the night very slow. He scored only four points in the first quarter and half of those came on free throws as HSP fell behind 19-5. Edwards got it going in the second quarter, though adding 14 points on a couple of step-back 3s and a lot of “and ones.” The windmill dunk never came because a long, tall Heritage team that had already lost twice to HSP in the regular season seemed bent on not letting the Ant Man loose for any of his patented dunks.
Those dunks eventually would come, but it was actually an Edwards 3-pointer that brought down the house. It probably should have counted for more as it came from at least 65 feet, delivered from three-quarters of court as the clock expired to end the third quarter. Never mind that there might’ve been some question if the ball left Edwards’ hands before double-zeroes — Edwards said afterward he didn’t think it did — the officials counted it, and so it goes into the official record of astounding things Ant Man has done. That’s a thick book already, y’all.
And while the quarter-ending bomb was impressive, so Edwards’ sequence just before that. He leapt high over everybody for a tip-in at the 29-second mark, followed soon thereafter by a steal and fast-break dunk with 11 seconds to go to give HSP 50-47 lead. When Connor Thompson made a 3 to tie it back up for Heritage seconds later, it just didn’t seem right on a night when everybody was there to see the Ant Man. Hence came the Ant Man’s three-quarter-court shot.
Predictably, it all led up to a furious finish, with Edwards scoring seven points in the final 1:54 trying to lift his team to victory. Only Heritage refused to stick to the script and decided instead to play the spoiler and leave with the trophy.
That’s OK. Everybody knows Edwards eventually will end up with all the spoils. The 6-foot-5 guard — already rated the No. 1 college prospect in America — also projects as the No. 1 pick of the 2020 NBA draft, according to NBAdraftnet, and some others. But, as good fortune would have it, Edwards plans to college first, at least for a year.
And, yes, Georgia is among his finalists. In fact, the word from the considerable entourage of AAU coaches, hoopniks and friends and family that was following Edwards indicates that the winds are extremely favorable for the Bulldogs and new coach Tom Crean. Neither Crean nor any of his UGA assistants were spotted at Friday’s game. But neither were coaches from North Carolina, Kentucky or Florida State, which are also finalists for Edwards. The talk Friday was that they all have exhausted their NCAA max for watching The Ant Man in action.
That’s understandable. After finally getting to watch him play, I can see why one would want to see this kid in action as much as possible.
If you frequent UGA events, you may get that opportunity soon. We’ll all find out Monday morning when Edwards announces his college of choice at a 9 a.m. news conference at Holy Spirit Prep in Buckhead.
I think I’ll go. Like all these college coaches, I don’t want to miss out when the Ant Man’s in action.