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PREP BASKETBALL: Manila wins thriller to cap 3A title run

by Erick Taylor | March 12, 2023 at 3:51 a.m.
Manila players celebrate their 61-57 overtime win against Bergman in the Class 3A boys state championship game Saturday at Bank OZK Arena in Hot Springs. More photos at Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

HOT SPRINGS -- Manila waited 13 years to get another crack at winning a state title, and the Lions were determined not to let their latest trip go to waste.

Brayden Nunnally and Jaron Burrow combined for 42 points as Manila withstood a captivating rush from Bergman to pull off a 61-57 victory in overtime Saturday night to win the Class 3A boys state championship.

The win also gave the Lions, who lost to Earle in 2010, their first title since 1962, and it couldn't have come at a better time in the final game of the 2022-23 season.

"We saved the best for last," Manila Coach Lee Wimberley said with a smile. "I think that was the best game of the week. Now I saw some other really good ones, but it's hard to top that. Overtime game in the state championship. ... You got a little bit of everything."

Manila (31-5) received plenty from its two senior leaders as well, who teamed to score 30 of the Lions' 41 points after halftime. Nunnally, who was named the Most Valuable Player, finished with 22 points, while Burrow added 20 points.

The Lions also got seven points each from Rex Farmer and Luke Kirk along with gripping play from Costner Smith, who ended with a team-high eight rebounds. All of those contributions were crucial, particularly in a fast-paced second half.

And the final two minutes of regulation were nothing short of frantic.

Manila led 47-44 after two free throws from Nunnally, until Bergman ran off four straight points to take a one-point lead. Nunnally later tied it at 48-48 when he hit the front end of two free throws with 25 seconds left. He missed the second attempt but drew another foul after grabbing the rebound and sank two more free throws to put the Lions back up.

However, Sawyer Schubert connected on a lay-in with 2.3 seconds remaining to eventually send the game into overtime, where Nunnally and the Lions were able to hold on.

"I want to give credit to Coach Wimberley and his team, they were unbelievable [Saturday]," Bergman Coach Bo Martin said. "They're a tough team and earned the game. But also more than anything I'm just super proud of my guys. They battled their guts out, showed the kind of character, the kind of hearts they have just like they've done all year long."

Dylan Friend hits eight three-pointers and had 28 points for Bergman (39-6), which had beaten Manila 59-46 in December. Walker Patton chipped in with 15 points.

Manila used a 6-0 run in the first quarter to hold a 12-10 lead, but Friend buried his third three-pointer of the period -- this one with five seconds left on the clock -- to put the Panthers ahead.

Friend nailed a 23-footer early in the second to start an 8-2 rally that put some small separation between the two, but both would endure lengthy dry spells that ultimately kept scoring at a minimum.

After a Nunnally's basket with 4:20 left in the quarter cut Bergman's lead to 21-18, neither team would score for the next 4:17 of the half. That drought didn't end until Nunnally hit a short bank shot with three seconds left to draw Manila within 21-20 at halftime.

Bergman opened up the third quarter with back-to-back three-pointers, including Friend's fifth, to build a 27-20 cushion and later extended it to 29-23 following an end-to-end lay-up from Patton, but Manila countered.

Another Nunnally basket ignited a 14-5 spurt for the Lions, with Kirk draining a double-clutched three-pointer from halfcourt just prior to the buzzer sounding to give Manila a 37-34 lead.

"We got back to that tied game, and that shot was just kind of the icing on the cake that pushed us a little bit further out," Wimberley explained. "We were like, 'Hey, we're gonna win this game', and I truly believed that the guys believed. They don't lack confidence, and when that shot went in. ... You always say it's better to be lucky than good sometimes.

"It was better to be lucky than good right then, and I'll take it all day long."

Kirk's shot seemingly lit a fire under the Lions, who scored six of the first eight points of the fourth quarter to establish a 43-36 advantage, but Bergman wasn't done.

The Panthers managed to creep closer and was able to get it into an extra session. Unfortunately for them, they made just one field goal in overtime while the Lions notched just enough free throws, namely the clincher from Nunnally with 4.6 seconds left, to win it.

 Gallery: Class 3A Boys State Basketball Championship

Print Headline: Manila wins thriller to cap 3A title run


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