It was a battle between two of the heavyweights in Northeast Arkansas basketball Saturday night in the finals of the Gerald Jennings Holiday Tournament at Valley View. Unfortunately for Manila, the Lions came up on the short end in a rematch of last year's championship game, dropping a hard fought 55-51 decision to East Poinsett County.
Byron Ford answered for the Warriors with a three pointer of his own, giving EPC an
18-17 lead. The two teams fought back and forth the rest of the quarter before A.J. Turner nailed consecutive treys, giving the Warriors a 24-22 advantage with 39 seconds left in the half. Garrett Scott made one of two free throws for the Lions to close the gap to 24-23 as the two teams headed into their dressing rooms at intermission.
Jammar Sturdivant hit a 15-foot jumper to begin the fourth period, pushing the Warrior lead to seven, 41-34. Things began heating up when EPC's Rashad Madden was fouled by Manila's Kam Ashabranner, leading to a technical foul call on both players.
The play seemed to fire up the Lions, as Manila went on an 11-3 run to take a 45-44 edge on Ashabranner's second three pointer of the quarter at the 4:07 mark. Scott pushed the Lion advantage to 46-44 when he made one of two foul shots, but Madden came right back with a 10-foot jumper to tie the game 46-46 with 3:14 to go.
49-46 lead. But Madden, a University of Arkansas signee, answered back with a three pointer of his own to tie the game 49-49 at the 2:33 mark.
A.J. Turner, who was all over the floor both offensively and defensively, hit a pair of critical free throws with 50 seconds left, putting EPC up 51-49. After an offensive foul was called on the Lions, Manila was forced to foul, sending Madden back to the line with 28 seconds left in the game. Madden missed the front end of the one and one but managed to grab his own rebound and was immediately fouled, sending the 6'6" senior back to the line. This time Madden didn't miss, nailing both ends of the one and one and giving EPC a 53-49 advantage.
"I am real proud of our effort," said Manila Coach Bill Taylor. "I thought the key play of the game was the offensive foul call on us. Then we didn't block out on Madden's missed free throw and had to foul again. I thought Big G (Garrett Scott) and Levi (Wallace) were outstanding tonight. We were determined to get the ball inside and we did a good job. EPC is a very good team. They have a tremendous defense and are so quick. I thought A.J. Turner was the best player on the floor tonight. He is just a terrific athlete. They are a hard team to defend. But I think this game will help us down the road."
"It was a close game and both teams are probably better off after playing it," said EPC Coach Josh Hill. "We want to play in big games against big-time teams to see where we are. We played great defense tonight, but we struggled on offense, taking too many perimeter shots. Manila is a very good basketball team. It was a great game."
Scott led the Lions with 17 points while Wallace also hit double digits with 12. Dillon Burrow nailed three treys on the night to finish with nine points. J.J. Helton tallied seven while Kam Ashabranner scored six. The Lions hit nine of 13 foul shots and drilled eight three pointers on the night.
Rashad Madden led all scorers with 23 points while Byron Ford and A.J. Turner added 16 and 14 points respectively. The Warriors hit nine of 10 foul shots while connecting for nine treys.
Manila advanced to the finals with a gut-wrenching 68-66 victory over host Valley View Thursday night. The Lions seemed to be in complete control of the game, leading by 16 points, but the Blazers fought back and eventually tied the game 64-64. Kam Ashabranner completed a four point play to break the tie, giving the Lions a 68-64 lead, and Manila hung on for the victory.
Ashabranner led Manila with 22 points. Levi Wallace and J.J. Helton added 18 and 16 points respectively.
Taylor Lindley led Valley View with 17 points while Andrew Shipman added 15.
The Lions began the tournament with a 77-27 blowout of Armorel Monday night. Manila put 11 players in the scoring column, led by J.J. Helton's 16 point performance. Levi Wallace scored 14 while Kam Ashabranner also hit double digits with 11. Dylan Bogle scored nine, Taylor Morgan tallied eight, Dillon Burrow had seven, Dustin Sirmon netted four, Garrett Baker contributed three while Garrett Scott and Tracey Reinhart pitched in two points apiece. Zack Reinhart added one point.
The Junior Lions fell in the first round of the tournament, losing a tough 48-43 decision to Valley View. Preston Graddy led the Blazers with 19 points. Valley View led 12-8 after the opening quarter, 23-18 at the half and 34-25 after three periods of play.
Thomas Davis led all scorers, pouring in 21 points, including five three pointers for Manila. Kyle Joyner scored eight, Scott Eubanks tallied four, Caleb Reinhart netted three while Gavin Parker added two points.
The Lions will return to action Tuesday night when they travel to Earle for a key 3A-3 conference battle. Manila closes the week hosting Rivercrest in another important conference game.