BROOKLAND — Blytheville and Brookland kept their fans on the edge of their seats again Monday night at Bearcat Arena.
Close games are the rule when the Chickasaws and Bearcats get together. The teams have met eight times in the last two years, with each game decided by five points or less.
And Monday’s contest finished with the slimmest margin of all.
Blytheville’s Brian Jones sank the second and third free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt with one second remaining, giving the Chickasaws a 50-49 victory in an early battle for the 4A-3 conference lead.
“Typical Blytheville-Brookland game,” Blytheville coach McKenzie Pierce said. “Just typical fashion.”
Pierce’s Chickasaws (14-2, 5-0 conference) appeared to be in position to close out the game when Johnny Anderson made two free throws with 50.7 seconds remaining, giving Blytheville a 48-44 lead.
Brookland’s Landon Hendrix made two free throws with 29.6 seconds left, pulling his team within two points again. The Bearcats (9-4, 4-1 conference) regained possession with 22.2 seconds remaining when the Chicks threw the ball out of bounds against the press.
Keean Strode drilled his second 3-pointer of the fourth quarter and third of the game with 10 seconds remaining, giving Brookland a 49-48 lead.
After a timeout with 9.2 seconds to play, the Chicks worked the ball to Jones in the corner. While his 3-point attempt bounced off the rim, Jones went to the free throw line with an opportunity to put his team back in the lead.
Jones missed the first free throw. After a timeout, he made the second and third shots.
“That’s who we want taking that shot and if he’s going to get fouled and go to the line, that’s who we want up there,” Pierce said. “If we can get him to the free throw line or anywhere on the right side of the floor, we feel really good about No. 1. He’s shooting about 75 percent from the right side of the floor on the year and about 85 percent from the stripe. Even after he missed the first one, I felt really good about the next two going in.”
Brookland’s Jackson Ballard made a tough catch of a baseball pass near the top of the key on the final play, but was unable to make an off-balance field goal attempt as time expired.
Anderson finished with 15 points to lead Blytheville, followed by Jones with 14 points, Ty’Reonn King with 10 and Lamont Jackson with nine. The Chicks prevailed despite making only 11-of-23 attempts from the free throw line.
“I would have liked to close it a little better. We had it, it was over with about 30, 40 seconds left, and the only person who could beat us was us,” Pierce said. “And we coughed the ball up, missed free throws. That was the thing, to be able to come in here and get the win with as many points as we left out there. I think it was the first trip of the game that we missed three free throws, so we left a lot at the free throw line, but I’m just proud of my guys’ no-quit attitude.”
Jackson Parnell led Brookland with 12 points and Strode added 11. Hendrix and Tyler Parham, who made three 3s, finished with nine points each.
“It was kind of the game I expected. I believe both teams played at an extremely high level and it kind of reminded me of a state tournament game,” Brookland coach Bobby Gross said. “I thought Blytheville really executed well and it was just one of those possession-by-possession games. I believe we did everything we needed to do to win and they just came out on top right at the end.”
Brookland led 12-8 after the first quarter and 23-22 at halftime. Blytheville led 34-33 after the third quarter.
Blytheville won the junior boys’ game 52-50 in overtime as Jeremiah Wells scored 26 points. Ben Jackson and Briar Allred scored 16 points each for Brookland, followed by Cole Kirby with 12.