Lions wrap up share of 3A-3 Conference title with win over Piggott
Manila wrapped up a share of the 3A-3 conference championship with its 70-49 victory over Piggott Tuesday night on the road, before setting their sights on Buffalo Island Central and former Coach Bill Taylor in both teams' regular season finale Friday night in the Lions' Den.
It was Taylor's first trip back to the school that he guided to a state final appearance in 2010. The Lions proved to be poor hosts, coming away with a 69-54 victory on senior night.
Things looked good for the Mustangs early, as Austin Pike began the game with a three pointer and a five-foot floater, giving BIC a quick 5-0 lead. Alan Carmichael's charity toss put the Mustangs up 6-0 just 2:46 into the game, but the Lions would roar back, outscoring BIC 12-1 the rest of the quarter to take a 12-7 lead at the break. All 12 Lion points came on three pointers, two each by Caleb Reinhart and Thomas Davis.
The two rivals battled on even terms throughout the second period, with the Lions maintaining leads of between four to seven points. Jacob Sanders pulled BIC to within 24-22 late in the second quarter with a pair of treys of his own, before senior captain Scott Eubanks gave the Lions a 26-22 halftime advantage with an inside bucket just before intermission.
Manila began the take control in the third quarter, and would hold the Mustangs to just three field goals during the period. Leading 28-25 at the 6:51 mark, Manila ran off a 10-2 spurt, capped off by consecutive treys from Kyle Joyner to grab a 38-27 advantage with 4:04 left in the quarter.
BIC battled back and scored the next seven points. The run was culminated by a Sanders three at the 2:03 mark, slicing the Lion lead to 38-34. Manila then went on a surge of their own, scoring 10 straight points to close out the quarter, highlighted by Reinhart's three point bomb and a conventional three point play by the Lion junior point guard, giving Manila a 48-34 lead after three stanzas.
The fourth quarter belonged to Eubanks, playing his final home game in front of the Lion faithful. The all-state forward took the game over, scoring 12 points, including three straight buckets that ended any hopes of a Mustang comeback.
Perhaps the turning point of the game came on a scramble near midcourt, when Lion senior Kyler Williams out-hustled and out-fought several Mustangs for a loose ball, giving Manila an important possession and an invaluable momentum swing.
"Kyler was unbelievable tonight," said Lion Coach Lee Wimberley. "I thought he played the best game he's played since I've been here. Kyle Joyner also hit two big three pointers for us in the third quarter."
"We beat a pretty dang good team tonight," continued Wimberley. "They are the 2A-3 conference champions and they've won 25 games. But we defended them and out-rebounded them, which is what we've done all year. We were able to come up with most of the loose balls. I thought BIC shot the ball well and of course Bill (Taylor) does a great job with them. We just battled tonight."
Eubanks closed his home court career with a 25 point effort to lead Manila. Reinhart was next with 16 points while Joyner scored 10. Davis tallied eight, Zac Riley contributed six while Erik Navarro and Seth Grissom added two points apiece. The Lions hit 13-22 free throws and drilled seven three pointers.
Wimberley praised his departing seniors. "Chase Stiles has become such a big part of this team," said Wimberley. "He came to us never having played before, but he has really improved his ability and knowledge of the game. His teammates love him. He is strong as an ox and is our leader when it comes to the weight room. Kyler Williams is a great athlete. He has great jumping ability, great speed and is long. He guards, he rebounds, and he's very valuable to us. Zac Riley is just a handful when he's on the floor. I've never been around anyone more competitive than he is. He wants to win as bad as anybody I've ever coached. When you get a kid like that, you've hit the mother-load. He's a great rebounder and is one of our four double-figure scorers. He's as good a kid as you'll find. Words can't describe Scott Eubanks. When he wants to take over a game, he just does it. He is a winner and you can't teach that. We are really going to miss all four of them."
The Mustangs were led by Pike's game high 30 points. Jacob Sanders was the only other BIC player in double figures, scoring 12 points, all from beyond the three point arc. Carmichael finished with six while Nick Bollinger and Seth Eatmon added three points apiece. BIC connected on 13-18 foul shots and buried seven treys. The Mustangs also committed a season high 22 turnovers on the night.
"Manila was just more physical than we were tonight," said Mustang Coach Bill Taylor. "We just didn't take care of the ball. We were too loose with the ball and we didn't play through contact. We fought, and we didn't lie down, but we have to learn to play through contact better than we did tonight. Losing Nick Bollinger to foul trouble really hurt us. He's our second leading scorer and we missed his inside presence. Manila out-rebounded us and Eubanks really played a good game."
BIC began the week with a 61-46 victory non-conference victory at Earle. Bollinger topped the Mustangs with 27 points and 10 boards while Pike pumped in 22 more and also grabbed 10 rebounds.
Manila will begin 3A-3 District Tournament play Friday night at Harrisburg while the Mustangs will host the 2A-3 District Tournament. BIC will begin play Thursday night.