Bay regains state championship
Bay staved off a furious comeback attempt by Concord in the final two minutes, as the Yellowjackets brought home the Class 1A State Championship with a heart stopping 54-51 victory Thursday afternoon at Barton Coliseum in Little Rock. It was Bay's second state title in the past three years and the third overall for the school.
The Yellowjackets held a seemingly safe 50-43 lead with just 2:21 to go before the Pirates put together one last charge. Luke Cornett was fouled on a three point attempt and sank two of his foul shots to cut the Bay lead to five with 2:09 to go. Freshman Jonathan Crain hit one of two free throws at the 1:57 mark to push the 'Jacket lead back to 51-45.
Hanse Bowman got the Pirate fans on their feet, drilling a three pointer from the left elbow to slice the Yellowjacket lead to 51-48 with 1:45 remaining. Bay's Tyson Oliver answered with a pair of clutch free throws at the 1:27 mark to push the 'Jacket lead back to five, but Cornett buried a three out of the right corner and suddenly the Bay lead was down to just two with 1:12 left on the clock.
The Yellowjackets turned the ball over on their next possession, but Jacob Roark, who came into the contest averaging over 30 points per game in state tournament play, missed a three pointer that would have given the Pirates the lead. Dylan Loven pulled down the rebound, but the Yellowjackets turned it over once again, this time with just 28 seconds remaining. Ryan Cornelison missed a three point attempt at the 17 second mark with Oliver snaring the rebound for the 'Jackets.
Forced to foul, Concord sent Loven to the line with just nine ticks left on the game clock. The senior forward connected on the first foul shot but missed the bonus, giving the Pirates one last chance to send the game into overtime. Concord worked the ball to Roark, but the junior guard's potential game tying shot clanked off the iron into the hands of Loven as the clock hit zero, sending 'Jacket fans into delirium.
"It really feels great to win the state title again," said Bay Coach Brad Brannen. "The first one felt great just to finally get one. I was a lot more relaxed going into this one, whereas the first one I was just a nervous wreck. I love it for these guys. They deserve it," said Brannen.
"Our seniors are the cornerstone of everything we do," continued Brannen. "They stepped up and made big play after big play today. Tyson had a big day offensively and on the boards. Dylan had what I think was the biggest play of the game with an offensive stick-back that changed the momentum for us. Matt Holt hit two huge three's out there. I've been telling him over and over that one of these games he would hit a big time shot and he did it in a state final. We also got a big game from Jonathan Crain, our freshman post player, who got some big rebounds and altered some shots. He was a difference maker today," said Brannen.
"We were able to win the battle of the boards today, which was a big key, and we did an outstanding job defending Roark. We felt like if we could hold him under 20 we had a chance to win. I think we held him to 13 points, and he was 0-7 on three pointers. That's a credit to our defenders," added Brannen.
"This feels great," said Oliver, who closed his career with a double-double while being named the Most Valuable Player of the finals. "We came up with some big rebounds, none bigger than Dylan's in the fourth quarter," said Oliver.
"It's hard to explain the feeling I have right now," said Loven. "We came up with the big plays when we needed them and did a great job holding Roark down."
"Bay made some big shots on us tonight," said Concord Coach Keith Cornett. "They are a well balanced team and they are hard to defend. They made one more run than we did. We felt like we were as good as they were, but they made more plays today. We played well. We felt like this was our year to beat them. We battled and fought. We just came up a little short," said Cornett.
Bay fell behind in the first quarter and trailed 16-13 at the break. Cornelison keyed the Pirates' first quarter offensive surge, scoring 10 points, including a pair of treys. Bay fought back in the second period and took the lead, 23-21, on a Holt triple at the 2:25 mark. Zach Johnson followed with a three of his own to push the 'Jacket lead to five. Concord cut the Bay lead to three, but Oliver came up with a spin move in the lane for two and with just 10 seconds left in the half, Oliver found Loven all alone for a lay-in, giving Bay a 30-24 lead at intermission.
Concord would rally once again in the third period, taking a 33-31 edge on a Roark lay-in at the 4:54 mark. Holt answered seconds later, driving the baseline to tie the game. Roark's 12-foot pull-up jumper put the Pirates back on top, but Bay ran off eight straight points to close the quarter, including Holt's second three pointer of the game to give the Yellowjackets a 41-39 lead heading into the final frame.
Oliver poured in 19 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to lead the Yellowjacket attack. Loven scored 13 points and grabbed seven boards while Holt finished with 11 points and six rebounds. Crain and Tyler Pritchett added four points apiece with Crain grabbing eight rebounds. Johnson added three points.
The Yellowjackets shot 44% in the first half but cooled off, hitting just 30% of their shots in the second half of play. Bay finished 19-50 from the field for 38% on the day. The Yellowjackets hit 5-18 three pointers for a 28% clip. Bay connected on just 11-19 free throws but out-rebounded Concord 40-28.
Cornett led the Pirates with 16 points while Roark and Cornelison added 13 and 11 respectively. Concord finished 18-49 from the field for a 37% shooting performance and made 6-21 three pointers. The Pirates made 9-15 foul shots on the day. The loss dropped the Pirates to 38-8 on the year.
Bay finishes the season with a 42-5 record, avenging an early season loss to the Pirates at the Joe V. Jones Classic in Monette.