Town Crier Sports Staff
Manila's Junior Lions stormed back from a 30-18 deficit with 3:53 left in the third quarter to take a 34-31 lead into the final frame of Saturday night's Gerald Jennings Holiday Invitational Tournament championship game at Armorel. But the Valley View Blazers would not be denied as they outscored the Lions 17-9 in the fourth period to take home the title with a 48-43 victory.
Valley View took a 12-9 lead after the first period of play and built their margin to 21-11 with 2:05 left in the half, before watching Manila go on a 7-0 run capped off by Tracy Reinhart's three pointer with 2.5 seconds left before the buzzer to pull the Lions to within 21-18 at intermission.
Valley View opened the second half with a 9-0 run only to see the Lions take control of the game with a mixture of inside and outside scoring. Blake Wheeler, who led all scorers with 19 points, started the 16-1 Manila run with a 15-foot jumper. Seconds later Trey Malone ripped a three pointer to make the score 30-23. A pair of free throws by Jared Burks and a lay-up by Cody Webb pulled the Lions to within 30-27 with 2:21 remaining in the quarter. Webb was fouled on the play and missed the free throw, but Wheeler grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled while attempting to shoot. The 5'10" freshman nailed both free throws to pull the Lions to within 30-29. On Manila's next possession, Burks ripped a three pointer to give Manila a 32-30 lead with 1:41 left in the third quarter.
Valley View finally broke the 14-0 run by Manila when Kaleb Brown hit 1-2 free throws at the 1:02 mark to pull the Blazers to 32-31. Wheeler closed the quarter with a 12-footer, and the Lions held a three point lead entering the final frame.
Valley View regained the lead when Kaleb Hendrix scored on an offensive rebound, giving the Blazers a 39-38 lead with 3:05 left in the game. A three pointer by Malone put Manila back on top 41-39, but a Brown three pointer at the 2:28 mark gave the Blazers the lead for good, 42-41.
Manila had several chances to tie the game or take the lead, but missed six straight free throws in the final 2:00 to seal their fate. The Lions had one last chance at victory when Wheeler broke the free throw drought by sinking two charity tosses with 15 seconds to go to close the Blazer lead to 45-43. But the Lions were forced to foul, sending Valley View's Taylor Caples to the line with 12 seconds remaining. Caples hit the front end of the double bonus, but missed the second. Unfortunately for the Lions, Caples came away with his own miss, and the Blazers ran out the clock to claim the championship.
Joining Brown in double figures for Valley View was Caples with 10 points. The Blazers managed only a 5-15 performance from the foul line and hit two three pointers.
Jared Burks scored eight points while Cody Webb and Tray Malone added six points apiece for the Lions. Tracey Reinhart scored three points while Zach Birmingham added one. Manila finished 11-21 from the free throw line and hit seven treys on the night.
"We have to give Manila credit, they came back twice and wouldn't quit," said Valley View Head Coach B.J. Zipfel. "But I thought when we changed our defense in the fourth quarter it really paid off for us and made a difference in the game. Both teams had a chance to quit but neither one did. It was a great game," concluded Zipfel.
"I thought our team showed a lot of heart tonight," said Manila Coach John Deaton. "We got down a couple of times but came back. That (Valley View) is a good basketball team we just played. They are very athletic. In a game like this it comes down to who makes the big plays at the end, and Valley View made more than we did. We missed six straight free throws down the stretch and only hit 11-21 for the game, and that really hurt us tonight. I told our team there are six other teams who would have loved to have the runner-up trophy, even though that's not what we came over here for. We had a good week of basketball. We beat a good Gosnell team on Tuesday and a very good Riverside team on Thursday. I am very proud of the kids."
Manila advanced to the finals by knocking off Gosnell 55-50 behind Wheeler's 24 points. Webb added 12 while Burks scored 11. Spencer Cain had four points while Zach Birmingham and Dylan Hill added two points apiece.
Manila knocked off top-seeded Riverside 49-39 in the semi-finals. Wheeler scored a game high 31 points, including five three pointers. Webb, Burks and Garrett Scott scored four points each while Birmingham and Reinhart added three apiece.
Jacob Love led Riverside with eight points. Sam Elam and Dewayne Schraeder scored seven points apiece while Josh Driver and Blake Hogan netted six each and Josh Anderson tallied five.
In senior boys action, Manila dropped a 61-58 decision to Corning, despite Hunter Veach's 22 point performance. Ross Malloy pumped in 16 points while Devin Wright added 12. Austin Metheney had five while Trey McCormick added three.
Logan Hart led Corning with 19 points while Zack Brown and Kyle Harvey added 11 points apiece.
Corning owned a 20-13 first period advantage and held on for a 36-33 lead at the half. Manila took a 48-46 lead into the final quarter before the Bobcats rallied for the win.
Manila will return to action Tuesday night when they travel to Lepanto to take on East Poinsett County in a conference tilt. Manila will face Brookland Friday night at home.