Lions edge Colts in 66-62 overtime thriller
Kam Ashabranner's driving lay-up with 39 seconds left in overtime broke a 62-62 tie and the Lions hung on to post a crucial 66-62 3A-3 conference victory over Rivercrest Saturday night at Manila.
The two teams battled to a 60-60 tie through four quarters before the Lions outscored the Colts 6-2 in the overtime period to gain their 22nd victory of the year while improving to 14-1 in conference play. The win also clinches a spot in the regional tournament, which the Lions will host beginning Feb. 22.
The victory sets up a Wednesday night showdown at Earle. If Earle defeats both Hoxie and Rivercrest Monday and Tuesday nights, the Lions and Bulldogs will be playing for the 3A-3 conference championship.
"This was a game that obviously could have gone either way," said Lion coach Bill Taylor. "The third quarter was just a nightmare for us. We looked like two different teams tonight. But it was good for our team to win that kind of game. It was our first overtime game of the year and hopefully it will prepare us for regional and state tournament play."
Manila jumped out on top 17-11 after the first quarter and held a 34-28 lead at the half, as both teams struggled from the field, especially from beyond the three point arc. "We got the ball inside at some key times, but we shot the three pointers so badly tonight," said Taylor. "It was just uncharacteristic for us."
Rivercrest began the second half with an 11-0 run to take a 39-34 lead with 4:41 left in the third quarter, behind the scoring of Demoine Brown. Brown pitched in seven of the 11 points during the run on his way to a game high 25 points on the night.
Levi Wallace, who led Manila with 21 points, broke the Lion drought, scoring back to back buckets to pull Manila to within 39-38 with 3:00 left in the quarter. Rivercrest built its lead back to six when Blake Coffman ripped a three pointer, giving the Colts a 46-40 edge at the 1:11 mark. Ashabranner's buzzer beater left the Lions facing a 48-44 deficit entering the fourth quarter.
Senior Blake Wheeler nailed a pair of free throws to pull Manila even with 7:01 left in the game, and the two teams battled back and forth until Rivercrest forged ahead 58-53 with 2:45 left to play. The Lions rallied in the final 2:00 of regulation and tied the contest 60-60 when Wallace hit one of two free throws with 4.5 seconds left. Manila had one last chance to win in regulation after a Colt turnover, but couldn't convert as the game went into overtime.
"I think foul trouble is what got us into trouble," said Rivercrest coach Rick Wilson. "I think if we don't get in foul trouble we win the game. We just have to play smarter down the stretch."
Rivercrest (14-4, 11-3 3A-3) also got double figure scoring from Terrance Banks who pumped in 12 points before fouling out midway through the fourth period. Jackson added 11 more. The Colts finished the night hitting only four of 12 free throw attempts.
Ashabranner scored 19 points while Wheeler added 15 more to join Wallace in double digits for the Lions. J.J. Helton tallied six, Garrett Scott netted four points before fouling out while Blake Carr chipped in one point. Manila overcame 19 turnovers by hitting 23 of 28 foul shots.
The Lions began the week with a 68-36 rout of Piggott. Levi Wallace completed a double-double, scoring 15 points while grabbing 12 rebounds. J.J. Helton and Blake Wheeler chipped in 12 points apiece while Blake Miller scored nine. Garrett Scott tallied six, Kam Ashabranner netted five points while dishing out 10 assists, Jared Burks contributed three while Zack Day pitched in two points.
Manila led 21-7 after the first period and built a 41-15 halftime advantage. The Lions put the game away in the third quarter and took a 58-22 lead into the final frame.
In junior high action, Manila slipped past Piggott 50-48 as Dylan Bogle and Dustin Sirmon scored 14 and 13 points respectively. Zach Reinhart and Kyle Joyner added nine points apiece. Tanner Platz netted three while Scott Eubanks contributed two points.
Manila will conclude regular season action Friday night when they play host to BIC. The junior Lions will begin district tournament play Monday night at Brookland.