Senior guard Autrey Allen sank six consecutive free throws in the decisive fourth quarter, including four in the final 42 seconds, to lift Earle to a 55-51 victory over Manila, spoiling the Lions' chances of clinching a share of the 3A-3 conference championship Friday night at Manila.
The Bulldogs closed the half with a 13-6 run to grab a 30-23 halftime advantage. Allen gave Earle momentum going into the dressing room when he scored and was fouled with one second left. Allen's free throw completed the three point play as the two teams headed to intermission.
Manila had ample opportunity to take the lead early in the game, but could connect on only 11-18 free throws in the first two quarters.
Earle went back up by four, 41-37, but a free throw by Eubanks and a long three pointer by Brady Jones tied the game 41-41 entering the final period of play.
Allen began the fourth quarter with a driving bucket, and after a Jones free throw, Tevin Scott drilled a three pointer from the right corner to give Earle a 46-42 lead with 5:17 left. Manila pulled to within one point, 47-46, on a pair of Bogle free throws at the 4:15 mark, but Allen answered with two foul shots of his own to build the Bulldog lead back to three.
The two teams traded buckets before Bogle once again pulled Manila to within a point, 51-50 with 51 seconds left in the game, but Allen iced the contest by sinking four consecutive foul shots down the stretch.
"I am very excited about the win tonight," said Earle coach Billy Murray. "We were able to hit our free throws in the fourth quarter and we overcame having three of our starters foul out. This just shows how deep we are. When they beat us the first time this year, we were just out of football. We are a much better team right now. I know Manila has a good team and Coach Wimberley does a good job, but we are a lot better than we were back in December. We were determined to show that we were the best team and not let Brady Jones beat us tonight."
"It came down to free throws and we just didn't execute tonight," said Lion coach Lee Wimberley. "The effort was there. We played extremely hard, but Earle did a better job at the free throw line than we did. We had a chance early to take the lead, but we missed five free throws right off the bat, and you can't beat a good team doing that. We are still in position to win the conference title if we take care of business next week."
Allen led the Bulldogs with 22 points, including a perfect eight for eight performance at the foul line, while Scott pitched in nine points. Earle drained 15-19 foul shots and hit two three pointers.
Eubanks paced the Lions with a game high 24 points while Jones added eight. Bogle and Riley scored seven points apiece while Sirmon chipped in five. The Lions hit just 21-33 free throw attempts and made a pair of three pointers on the evening.
Manila began the week with a 54-44 victory Tuesday night at Harrisburg. The Lions struggled early as the two teams were tied 13-13 after the opening period. Manila pulled ahead 29-22 at the half and expanded their lead to 46-28 after three quarters of play.
Jones poured in a game high 24 points to lead the Lions while Eubanks chipped in 10. Sirmon tallied seven, Riley pitched in five, Bogle netted four, Caleb Reinhart had two while Kyle Joyner and Thomas Davis added one point apiece.
Ayson Lamb and Alec Witt led Harrisburg with 12 points each.
In junior high action, Manila dropped a pair of games, losing 43-28 to Harrisburg before dropping a 60-41 decision to Earle.
Matthew May scored 10 points in Manila's loss to Harrisburg. Tyler Johnson tallied nine, Bradey Woodall netted eight while Timmy Smith chipped in one point.
Johnson paced the Lions against Earle, scoring 11 points. Matthew May contributed nine, Jake Helton had eight, Logan Hamilton pitched in six, Patrick Tanner chipped in five while Rodney Laster added two points.
Manila returns to conference action with a pair of key games next week. The Lions will travel to Wilson to battle Rivercrest Tuesday night and will play host to Piggott Friday night in the last home game of the season.