Junior Lions bring home Gerald Jennings title

Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Manila Junior Lions, Gerald Jennings Champs

Manila jumped on Gosnell early and never let up as the Lions roared past the junior Pirates 54-40, claiming the 2015 Gerald Jennings Invitational Tournament Saturday night at Lake City.

Freshmen Abraham Lopez and Brock Birmingham combined for 39 points, giving head coach John Deaton his first Gerald Jennings championship in 14 tries.

"I am a very happy man," Deaton said. "It's my first Gerald Jennings title in my 14 years here at Manila, so it's a very special feeling. Gosnell is a good team. They brought a lot of pressure. But I thought we stepped up and made some big shots. Everyone played well tonight. This is a fun bunch to watch and to coach. They get along well and they truly like each other. Gosnell made a run late in the third quarter, cutting the lead to nine, but we responded with a 7-0 run to put the game away."

The Lions trailed 7-6 at the 2:45 mark of the opening period before Birmingham's fall-away jumper in the lane put Manila on top to stay, 8-7. Lopez then ran off seven straight points before Birmingham's eight foot bank shot closed the quarter with the Lions up 17-10.

Trenton Thomas and Layne Sims delivered back to back buckets to start the second period as the Lions forged a double digit lead. A Lopez triple, an inside bucket from Birmingham and a pair of Daley Belew free throws pushed Manila's advantage to 28-12 with 3:27 left in the first half. The Lions carried a 32-18 lead into the dressing room at intermission.

Manila kept its foot on the throttle in the third quarter, starting with a three pointer from Thomas, followed by Lopez's conventional three point play. After Birmingham slashed for an inside bucket, the Lion increased their lead to 40-24 at the 3:45 mark. Gosnell charged back, scoring seven straight points, capped off by Coty Keene's lay-in with 1:20 left in the quarter.

Manila junior boys coach John Deaton gives instructions to his team Saturday night in the championship game of the Gerald Jennings Invitational Tournament at Lake City.
Lion freshman Brock Birmingham launches a three pointer during the finals of the Gerald Jennings Holiday Tournament Saturday night in Lake City. Birmingham scored 18 points and the Lions brought home the championship with a 54-40 victory over Gosnell.

The Lions responded with a 7-0 run of their own, starting with a Lopez three point bomb at the 1:00 mark. Birmingham followed with a two pointer and closed the period with a steal and a lay-up at the buzzer, giving Manila a commanding 47-31 lead heading into the final frame.

The Lions built their advantage to as many as 20 points in the final quarter and coasted to the tournament title.

Lopez led all scorers with a game high 21 points while Birmingham finished with 18. Thomas scored eight, Sims had five while Balew finished with two. The Lions connected on seven of 10 foul shots and drilled five three pointers.

Keene and JyDarian Young led the Pirates with nine points apiece. Gosnell made six of 11 free throws.

Manila advanced to the finals with a 52-41 come from behind victory over Corning in Thursday night's semifinal action. Birmingham poured in 17 fourth period points, including a nine for 10 performance from the foul line, to rally the Lions who trailed 36-35 entering the fourth quarter.

The two teams battled to an 11-11 first period tie before Manila took a slim 20-19 edge at intermission. The Bobcats slipped ahead by one point entering the final frame before Birmingham exploded in the fourth quarter to push the Lions into the tournament finals. Birmingham finished the night with a game high 35 points.The 6'2" freshman converted 15 of his 16 free throw attempts. Lopez added eight points, Thomas had four, Balew scored three while Brian Gonzalez chipped in two points.

Lucas Barajas paced Corning with 19 points.

Manila defeated Harrisburg 63-22 in nonconference action Tuesday night at home. Lopez and Balew led the Lions with 12 points apiece while Birmingham scored nine. Ethan Navarro had six, Michael Parker tallied five, Sims and Franklin Patterson netted four points apiece while Hunter Vuletich contributed three. Thomas, Gonzalez, Jeremiah Perez and Coby Hollis added two points each. The Lions drained 11 three pointers on the evening.

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