Town Crier Sports Staff
Jesse Hughes scooped up a loose ball and threw in the winning bucket with just three seconds remaining to lift Armorel to a stunning 45-44 non-conference victory over the Lions Tuesday night at Manila.
Manila had taken a 44-43 lead on a pair of free throws by senior point guard Trey McCormick with 30 seconds remaining before Hughes pulled off his game winning heroics, dropping the Lions to 4-3 on the season.
Manila took a 38-31 lead into the final quarter but went cold from the field as the Tigers battled back behind the scoring of Hunter Kortan, who finished the night tied with Hughes for top scoring honors with 12 points apiece.
Kortan began the fourth quarter with a driving lay-up, and following a pair of buckets from Bryan Broach the Tigers cut the Lion lead to 40-37 with 3:10 left in the game. Manila's Ross Malloy scored from the inside with 2:44 left to push the Lion lead back to five, 42-37, seemingly putting Manila in control. But Kortan came up with back to back steals and lay-ups, pulling the Tigers to within 42-41 with 1:17 left.
Following a Manila miss, Kortan gave Armorel the lead, 43-42, scoring on a driving lay-up with 39 seconds left, setting the stage for Hughes' game winning bucket.
Armorel took charge early in the game, racing to an 18-10 lead after the first quarter behind a trio of three point bombs, two coming from Chris Brown. Manila fought back in the second quarter behind Malloy, who scored the Lion's first seven points of the period, including a three pointer from the top of the key with 3:06 left in the half to cut the Tiger lead to 20-17. Sophomore Blake Wheeler's lay-up at the 2:13 mark sliced Armorel's advantage to 20-19, but back to back buckets from Kortan pushed Armorel's advantage to 24-20. Wheeler's three pointer just before the halftime buzzer brought Manila to within 24-23 at the half.
The Lions took the lead in the third period thanks to three straight treys. Malloy struck first with a three pointer at the 4:49 mark before McCormick followed with back to back threes, giving the Lions a 36-29 advantage with 3:01 left in the quarter.
Malloy finished the night with a game high 19 points to lead the Lions while Wheeler also hit double digits, scoring 13. McCormick added eight points while Chad Nunnally and Jonathan Rose chipped in two points apiece. Manila connected on 9-10 free throws and nailed five three pointers.
Armorel (6-4) went to the free throw line just two times, connecting on one, while drilling four three pointers.
"We hung in there in the fourth quarter, forced a few turnovers and came away with a big win," said Armorel Coach Charlie Brown. "We played kind of sloppy in the second and third quarters, but we dug down deep in the fourth quarter when it counted. Jesse stood up and made that shot at the end, and it was a big one. Manila has a great team. This was a big time win for us."
"Overall we played well, but the last five minutes we played like we were behind instead of ahead," said Manila Coach Jeral Hudspeth. "This was a tough loss. We didn't close it out. Armorel is a quality team. We do a great job of diving on the floor and giving 100 percent, but our mental toughness is what is letting us down. Until we fix that, we will continue to struggle. That is my job to straighten that problem out."
In junior high action, Manila rolled to a 54-21 victory. Kam Ashabranner led the way with 11 points while freshman point guard Tracey Reinhart chipped in 10 more. Manila led 20-4 after the first period and 32-9 at the half. The Lions took a 40-17 lead into the final frame.
Garrett Scott scored seven points, Levi Wallace had five, while Jeremy Goff, Brent Ray, Dillon Burrow and Jordan Towell all added four points apiece. Dustin Miller added three. The Lions hit 8-12 free throws and made two three pointers.
Zach Skelton led Armorel with nine points. The Tigers were 2-7 from the foul line and hit one three pointer.
Manila will return to action Monday night at 8:00 when they take on Buffalo Island Central in the first round of the Gerald Jennings Tournament at Gosnell. The Lions will enter the tournament as the number three seed while the Mustangs are seeded sixth.
The Junior Lions will enter the tournament at the top seed, and will draw a first round bye. Manila will take on the Marked Tree-Armorel winner Wednesday night at 6:15.