Town Crier Sports Staff
Senior guard Troy Hull pumped in 23 points while freshman Ky Madden added 21 more to lead East Poinsett County to a thrilling 75-70 come from behind victory over Manila Tuesday night in the first round of the 3A-3 District Tournament at Corning.
Manila rallied from a 17-14 first period deficit to outscore the Warriors 27-15 in the second quarter, taking a 41-32 lead into the dressing room at intermission. The Lions rallied behind the outside shooting of senior post player Chad Nunnally, who knocked down back to back three pointers midway through the period to stretch a three point Manila lead to seven, 32-25, with 3:20 left in the half. Hull's three point play at the 1:18 mark pulled EPC to within 34-30, but the Lions outscored the Warriors 7-2 the rest of the way, aided by a three pointer from Trey McCormick and an offensive stick-back at the halftime buzzer by senior Ross Malloy to give the Lions a nine point lead.
Manila began the third period with a three point play from Nunnally to go ahead 44-32. Following a Chris Davis basket for EPC, Nunnally struck again with an offensive stick-back and a pair of free throws to give the Lions their largest lead of the night, 48-34, at the 5:50 mark.
After an EPC time out, the Warriors began their comeback as Hull drained a trey from the left corner before Davis scored a three point play of his own, cutting the Lion lead to 48-41 with 4:11 left in the third period. EPC whittled the Lion lead down to just one point, 53-52, on back to back baskets by Bucky Chamberlin with only 34 seconds to go in the period. Blake Wheeler's 15-footer at the 18 second mark gave Manila a 55-52 edge heading into the final period.
Malloy pushed the Manila lead to five with a 17-footer to begin the fourth quarter. After the two teams swapped three pointers, the Warriors pulled to within 60-59 on a free throw by Hull and a trey from Madden with 6:40 to play. EPC grabbed the lead for good with 5:37 left when Hull hit from beyond the three point arc again, giving the Warriors a 62-60 edge.
EPC built their lead to 68-60 with three straight lay-ups, but Manila made one final charge and closed to within 72-70 when McCormick drilled a three pointer with only 30 seconds left in the game. The Lions were forced to foul and sent senior Brett Hardin to the line where he calmly sank both free throws to give the Warriors a 74-70 lead with 18.9 seconds left. A Lion turnover gave the Warriors the ball back, and Davis sealed the game with another free throw to set the final margin at 75-70.
"It was a tale of two halves," said EPC Coach Josh Hill. "Manila played extremely well and shot the ball better than most people thought they would. Their post players were stepping out and knocking down shots and we weren't ready for that. I thought Troy Hull played extremely well and Ky Madden played great for a freshman in his first game on the senior high level. I am very proud of the whole team."
"It was a crazy game," said Manila Coach Jason Durham. "I thought we played well tonight. Chad Nunnally probably played the best game of his career. The third quarter was the turning point. I thought we kind of lost our focus. We started playing like we were behind instead of like we had the lead. But I am super proud of this team, especially the seniors. They showed a lot of leadership. You can't ask for a better effort. They will all be sorely missed."
The Lions placed four players in double figures, led by Nunnally, who finished with 20. Wheeler scored 16, Malloy finished with 15 before fouling out, while McCormick completed his Lion career with a 13 point effort. Luke McLaughlin tallied four and Cody Webb added two. The Lions hit 11-15 from the foul line and made seven treys.
EPC also placed four players in double figures, led by Hull and Madden. Chamberlin scored 12 while Davis added 11. Hardin finished with six points while Mike Medina netted two. The Warriors connected on 20-29 foul shots and drilled seven three pointers on the night.
The Lions complete their season with a 7-17 record.