It looked as though Manila's junior high team had punched a ticket to the finals of the Gerald Jennings Holiday Tournament Saturday night at Caraway, but Corning's Jake Kegley ripped the ticket apart with a last second bucket to deal Manila a heartbreaking 33-32 loss.
Kegley's heroics was part of a second half Corning comeback that erased a six point Manila halftime lead. The two teams were tied at the end of the first quarter 9-9 before the Lions pulled away to a 24-18 halftime advantage. Corning battled back in the third quarter to cut the lead to 26-25. Corning then took the lead midway through the fourth quarter only to see Manila battle back to take a 32-31 advantage when Blake Wheeler knocked down his third trey of the night with only six seconds remaining.
The Bobcats had one last chance and worked the ball to Kegley who then hit the game winner from just inside the free throw line to give Corning a spot in next Wednesday's championship game against Gosnell.
Jacob Perez led the Lions with 10 points while Wheeler pumped in nine, all on three pointers. Jonathan Rose had eight points. Luke McLaughlin scored three points while Michael Shedd added two. The Lions were 6-10 from the foul stripe and hit four three pointers on the night.
Coring was led by Zach Brown who scored a game high 14 points while Kegley added nine. Corning was 3-6 from the free throw line and hit two three pointers on the night.
"I thought we played as well as we've played all year," said Manila Junior Boys Coach John Deaton. "Their kid (Kegley) hit a tough shot at the end. I thought we had him defended as well as we could. They made a tough shot. They made the plays at the end and we didn't. I was proud of the way we battled back after Corning took the lead. Eighth grader Blake Wheeler hit a couple of big threes for us. We battled as well as we could. We just came up a little short. The kids gave a great effort. The kids did it tonight. I tried to help them all I could but they did the playing. I thought we played real well and showed a lot of character. I was very proud of our kids."
The first semi-final game of the night was also a barnburner as Gosnell scored late to pull out a 60-59 thriller over Valley View.
The Blazers clung to a 17-16 first quarter lead and held a 32-30 edge at the half. Gosnell rallied in the third quarter, outscoring Valley View 21-13 to take a 51-45 lead into the final quarter.
Ethan Bryant led the Pirates with 20 points. Jevon Smith added 15 while Deontra Scott tacked on 12.
Valley View was led by Hunter Saffell who pumped in 18 points while Cade Lynch and Aaron Moore added 13 and 12 points respectively.