Lions hopes of state title end at hands of West Fork 69-53
Manila's hopes of avenging last year's defeat in the Class 3A State Tournament finals fell by the wayside Friday night at Harding Academy in Searcy, as a hot West Fork squad overwhelmed the Lions 69-53 in the quarterfinals, ending Manila's season.
The two teams traded leads throughout the first half, with the Pirates holding a 15-12 edge after the opening quarter behind the three point shooting of senior guard Cody Cone and junior forward Timothy Seaman, who both hit two treys apiece.
Neither team could generate much offense in the second stanza. Both the Lions and the Pirates held each other to two field goals each during the period, but West Fork took a 22-20 edge into the dressing room at the half on a 10-foot turnaround jumper by 6'6 post Jared Johnson with eight seconds left before intermission.
Cone exploded in the third quarter, drilling five three pointers, including three straight to close the period, the last coming at the buzzer, giving West Fork a 44-33 advantage heading into the final frame.
Manila's Kam Ashabranner, who picked up three quick fouls in the first half, was whistled for his fifth foul at the 7:19 mark of the fourth quarter, with the Pirates holding a 48-33 lead. The rest of the period turned into a free throw shooting contest, with West Fork attempting 32 foul shots while connecting on 23, while the Lions went to the line 20 times and connected on 12 attempts.
The Pirates continued to build their lead throughout the final period, with Manila never getting closer than 13 points the rest of the way.
"Things really went wrong for us early," said Lion Coach Bill Taylor. "Kam got into early foul trouble and that took him out of the game. We got beat by a really good team tonight. West Fork has a strong inside-outside attack and had a good game plan against us. We knew coming in we would have to play one of our best games of the year. When you get to the state, everyone is good. West Fork's guards really hurt us, especially Cone. We kept pushing him deeper and deeper, and he kept connecting on three pointers. He's a heck of a shooter. I thought West Fork was the more aggressive team both offensively and defensively. You have to give them credit. We had a great year. It's disappointing to lose in the quarterfinals after making it all the way to the championship game last season. But I am very proud of this team," said Taylor.
Cone finished the night with seven three pointers on his way to a 25 point performance in leading the Pirates. Johnson also scored double digits with 20 points. West Fork connected on 28-42 foul shots and drilled nine three pointers.
Levi Wallace led the Lions with 23 points while J.J. Helton added 12. Dillon Burrow scored nine, Garrett Scott had four, Zack Day tallied three while Ashabranner finished with two points. Manila went to the line 29 times and connected on 18 while finishing with five treys.
The Lions began the tournament Thursday night with a 74-54 victory over Drew Central behind Helton and Ashabranner who poured in 27 and 20 points respectively.
Manila charged to a 14-7 lead after the opening quarter with Ashabranner beginning the game with an alley-oop dunk on a pass from Helton to set the tone for the game.
Manila increased their lead in the second period and led 34-14 going into halftime.
The two teams played on even terms in the second half with the Lions holding on for the 20 point victory.
Wallace also hit double digits for Manila, scoring 12 points. Garrett Scott and Dylan Bogle tallied four point each, Taylor Morgan scored three while Blake Carr and Dillon Burrow added two points apiece. The Lions finished the night seven of 17 from the foul line and hit five three pointers.
The Pirates were led by Dominique Rhodes who scored 20 points. Demarius Thomas added 11 while Antario Lucas chipped in 10. Drew Central hit 13-23 free throws and made four three pointers.
The Lions finish the season with a 26-9 record.