(Town Crier photo/Trent Fletcher)
East Poinsett County broke open a tight game with an 18 point third quarter explosion to put away Manila 46-26 in the finals of the junior high division of the Gerald Jennings Tournament Saturday night at Gosnell.
Darius Barnes pumped in a game high 22 points, including eight in EPC's third quarter run to lead the Warriors to the tournament championship.
The Lions cut a 21-10 deficit to 21-17 on back to back buckets by freshman Kam Ashabranner with 4:02 left in the third quarter. But the Warriors came back with an 11-0 run of their own and closed the quarter, outscoring Manila 16-1 to take a 19 point lead into the final frame.
A.J. Turner also hit double digits for EPC scoring 11 points. The Warriors finished the night 8-14 from the foul line and hit four treys.
Kam Ashabranner led Manila with eight points while Jeremy Goff finished with seven. Garrett Scott scored three while Brent Ray, Dillon Burrow, Blake Miller and Levi Wallace all added two points apiece. The Lions hit 10-16 from the foul line.
"We cut the lead to four and they hit those two three's back to back and we just seemed to never recover," said Lion Coach John Deaton. "EPC is a good team. They have one very good player you have to keep an eye on all the time. You have to focus on Ky Madden so much that it allows some of their other players to have big games. I am still proud of my team. We are going to be okay. We just have to go back and regroup. We will face them two more times including this Tuesday night. This is two years in a row that we've made it to the finals. This is not what we came for, but a lot of teams would like to be in our place."
Manila reached the finals by knocking off Armorel 59-27 in the first round and Paragould 44-33 in the semi-finals.
Ashabranner led Manila past Armorel with 21 points while Scott scored 12 and Ray added 10. The Lions jumped to a 17-4 first period lead and held a 33-13 advantage at the half. Manila went into the fourth quarter with a 50-17 margin.
Levi Wallace scored four points, Tracey Reinhart and Jordan Towell netted three points apiece, while Jeremy Goff, Blake Miller and Zach Day added two points apiece.
Lavonta Smith led Armorel with eight points.
Ashabranner pumped in 21 points in Manila's victory over Paragould. Ray had 10 while Scott added nine. Reinhart pitched in three and Goff tallied one to round out the Lion's scoring. Manila led 13-7 after one quarter and 21-14 at the half. The Lions carried 27-23 edge into the final period.