Saturday night's 3A-3 District Tournament championship game between the Manila Lions and Earle Bulldogs in Piggott was a hardwood battle. The contest needed extra minutes for a winner to emerge, requiring overtime. In the end, the Lions came up just short in the heartbreaker, falling to Earle, 61-54.
Manila led 38-29 heading into the fourth, but Earle outscored the Lions 19-10 in the frame. The Bulldogs took a 47-46 lead with under two minutes left in the period following a three-pointer by Allen. Dalvin Kimble added a free throw with 55 seconds to make it a two-point game. Ashabranner sank a pull-up jumper from 10 feet to tie things up at 48-48 and force the overtime.
Fouls were a big part of the contest, with the second half having a decidedly different feel than the first, in terms of officiating. Garrett Scott, Manila's 6'8" center, was one the main casualties of the whistle, playing limited minutes and fouling out in the fourth. Manila made 11 of 21 free throw attempts. Earle connected on 20 of 34 from the stripe.
The teams had played twice previously this season, with boy squads winning one game. The championship contest served as a tiebreaker for two of the top teams in 3A-3.
"Earle's a great team," Taylor said. "We're a great team. When two great teams play, it's usually going to come down to the wire. We played great for 30 minutes tonight, but lost our composure after that."
Wallace notched a game-high 23 points for the Lions. J.J. Helton and Ashabranner also reached double figures, netting 12 and 11, respectively. Also scoring for Manila were Dillon Burrow 5, Blake Carr 2 and Scott 1.
Willford and Knighten led Earle with 17 and 14 points, respectively. Kimble and Marshall notched 10 points each for the Bulldogs.
Manila claimed the regular season conference crown, and was presented with the district runner-up trophy at the conclusion of Saturday night's final. The Lions earned the second seed from 3A-3 in the upcoming regional tournament set to begin Wednesday at Bergman. Manila will face Mountain View, the third seed from 3A-1E, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
The Lions handled Hoxie in the semifinals Friday night in Piggott, coming away with a one-sided 73-51 victory over the Mustangs. Manila jumped out to a 20-7 advantage after the first quarter and never looked back, leading 40-25 at the half and 63-39 going into the fourth frame.
The Lions took advantage of Hoxie fouls, sinking 22 of 34 free throws. Hoxie made five of seven from the line.
Ashabranner and Helton were all-but-unstoppable on the night, leading Manila in scoring with 22 and 20, respectively. Scott added 10 points in the win. Also scoring for the Lions were Wallace 9, Taylor Morgan 4, Tracy Reinhart 4 and Brian Borden 2.
Coy Yasler and Jacob Defries paced the Mustangs with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
A strong crowd presence supported the Lions on both nights.