Last-second win aids Mineola effort
It was an inbound play from under the Mineola basket. With 16 seconds left on the clock, and the score tied at 45, the Yellowjackets needed a score to stay in the tournament. Inbound plays are a source of pride in the Jacket basketball program, and that pride is well-placed. The pass went to the second man flashing into the lane. Kelby Bruner secured the pass and in one motion went up for an uncontested lay-in.
Mineola held on through the last few seconds to secure a 47-46 win over the Commerce Tigers. That play sent the Jackets forward to meet the Sabine Cardinals and a potential place in the Consolation Championship of the 53rd Jack Shellnutt Invitational in Edgewood.
The win over Commerce was the product of overcoming a significant deficit. The Jackets just couldn’t get in gear in the first half and trailed at the break 31-21. Despite an old-fashioned wake-up call from Coach Ryan Steadman, the Jackets did not change out of their concrete shoes until the second half.
With the defense awakened following the break, the Jackets crept back into the game. Hard work on the boards by Dawson Pendergrass and Wiley Franks and excellent guard play by Jonah Fischer spearheaded the effort. A nice backdoor play pulled the Jackets within two points midway through the fourth quarter. A Fischer drive tied the game at 42 and set up the finish.
The Yellowjackets were coming off a thrilling 77-76 loss at the hands of the Clarksville Tigers. The Clarksville team can flat-out shoot the eyes out of the basket. Clarksville opened a 15 point lead early and lived on speed and 3-point shooting. The Jackets again were forced to grind out a long comeback.
It took three quarters, but Mineola drew to within one point with 22 seconds to play. A confusing finish left the Jackets in the left-side bracket.
Fischer had a stand-out performance scoring 31 points and produced key defensive plays throughout the game. Bruner and Moreland each contributed 14 points.
With one loss and one win, Mineola dispatched the Sabine Cardinals, 54-48, in their second game last Friday. The workmanlike win over a strong Cardinal side sent the Jackets through to the consolation match-up against Quinlan-Ford.
In their most complete game of the tourney, Mineola took the consolation trophy with a 46-40 overtime win against the Panthers. The game matched excellent man-to-man defensive play by both sides and clean, hard basketball. The score was notched at 24 at the half. Moreland chalked up 13 points in the first half to lead the Jackets.
The Yellowjackets went cold in the third quarter, and Quinlan-Ford opened a 31-24 lead. Pendergrass broke the drought with a basket in the final minute of the third quarter. Pendergrass was a rebounding force in the second half and he tallied nine rebounds on the night.
The fourth quarter effort to tie the game required the Yellowjackets to excel in all aspects of the game, and they did. Mineola demonstrated a kind of commitment which will be required to compete in district 12-3A. Fischer and Pendergrass both took hard charges in the final quarter. Bruner and Steward stepped up with big baskets, and defensively the Jackets overwhelmed the Panthers.
Mineola had a chance to win the game at the buzzer, but Moreland’s shot was deflected and fell short. Bruner hit a short jumper from the lane to break the stalemate in overtime. He followed that up with a strong scoring drive to give the Jackets a four-point lead. Fischer and Moreland closed out the win by hitting five of six free throw tries.
The experience of facing four quality teams, each with specific strengths, over a short tournament and in a highly-charged competitive environment is what makes tournament high school hoops so amazing. The Yellowjackets have taken full advantage of this opportunity.