Lions fall to Warriors 60-41 in Gerald Jennings final

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Manila advanced to the finals of the Gerald Jennings Holiday Tournament, but fell victim to the Warriors in the championship game as East Poinsett County downed the Lions 60-41 Saturday night at Caraway.

Manila's J.J. Helton (10) eyes the basket Saturday night at Caraway in championship action against EPC.

Manila's J.J. Helton started hot, grabbing a steal and a lay-up before hitting a three pointer to give the Lions an early 5-2 lead, but EPC's Ky Madden and company withstood the early Manila surge and pushed their way to a 15-9 first period lead, with Madden scoring eight first quarter points.

The Lions scored only six points in the second quarter. Garrett Scott and Kam Ashabranner both added baskets while Levi Wallace and Blake Wheeler each went 1-2 from the foul line for Manila's only points. Meanwhile, the Warriors hit four treys in the quarter, three by sharpshooter Jori Ford to give EPC a 29-15 halftime advantage.

Manila's Kam Ashabranner (15) drives to the basket Saturday night in the championship game of the Gerald Jennings Holiday Tournament at Caraway.

Ford continued his shooting streak in the third period, hitting three consecutive triples to close out the quarter, helping to extend the Warriors' advantage to 44-27 heading into the final frame. The Lions could get no closer than 15 points in the fourth quarter.

Ford finished with 24 points, hitting eight three pointers. Madden added 14 while A.J. Turner tallied 13 points.

Manila senior Blake Wheeler (11) tries to pass around EPC's Byron Ford (2) in Saturday night's senior boys championship game of the Gerald Jennings Holiday Tournament. (Town Crier photos/Trent Fletcher)

Manila was led by Ashabranner who scored12 and Wallace who added 11 points and 11 boards. Wheeler and Helton tallied eight points apiece while Blake Carr contributed two points.

"Both teams played really hard," said EPC Coach Josh Hill. "Both teams really wanted to win this game and I know the fans did too. Defensively, I thought we were outstanding, as we have been most nights this year. I wish we could have cleaned it up on offense a little, but defensively I was very pleased. Ford is our guy that if you zone us, and he's got it going, you aren't going to be able to zone us for very long. He is very capable. I think this bunch of kids has been in the finals of this tournament every year since they were eighth graders. This tournament is special to us because Mr. Jennings was superintendant of EPC, so we like to make it to the finals every year if we can."

Lion Levi Wallace (25) follows through on a free throw Saturday night in action against EPC.

"I did a poor job of preparation," said Manila Coach Bill Taylor. "EPC is an outstanding club. We didn't do a lot of things right. Defensively, we didn't rebound the ball. It's hard to find very many positives. We committed too many people to Madden, and he is a great passer with that size. His ability to get in the paint caused us a world of problems tonight and his teammates are committed to their roles. But give EPC credit. They made a lot of good plays. That's why they are a great team. The one thing we did is we did not quit. We gave good effort, so I am proud of that. We'll try to bounce back and be better prepared if we meet them again."

The Lions reached the title game by defeating Valley View 88-76 in the semifinals. Manila placed four players in double figures as Ashabranner scored 24, Wallace tallied 22, Wheeler netted 21 and Garrett Scott added 16. Helton chipped in five points to round out the Lion scoring.

Dustin Jones scored 24 points for the Blazers while Caleb Brown added 18.

The Manila Lions, runner-up of the Gerald Jennings Holiday Tournament.
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