HOT SPRINGS — Jonesboro refused to yield to a hard-charging opponent in the heat of a state championship game.
The Hurricane built a 16-point halftime lead Saturday night and withstood a furious rally by the Maumelle Hornets for a 58-56 victory in the Class 5A boys’ state championship game at Bank OZK Arena.
The final game of Arkansas’ 2020-21 high school basketball season began as a blowout and ended as a thriller. Jonesboro scored the first seven points while forcing Maumelle into three turnovers before the Hornets even attempted a shot.
Jonesboro led 17-6 after the first quarter and 37-21 at halftime, but the Hurricane’s 16th all-time state championship wasn’t secure until Maumelle’s Riley Wade missed a 3-pointer from the corner as the buzzer sounded to end the game.
“It feels really good. Probably the best feeling right now is for these seniors,” Jonesboro coach Wes Swift said. “We’ve struggled a little bit the last couple of years finishing the season out strong and these guys made a commitment at the start of the year that we may go down, but we ain’t going down without a huge fight.
“Tonight, to have a 16-point lead cut all the way down to one, that’s a ton of momentum to try to flip back the other way. That’s just straight toughness on their part. So proud of them for finishing it.”
Jonesboro (24-3) closed the season with 20 consecutive victories. The Hurricane did not lose again after an overtime setback Dec. 29 at North Little Rock, the eventual Class 6A state champion.
Maumelle (20-6) did its best to deny the Hurricane, however, despite a poor start that included six turnovers in the first quarter.
The Hornets wiped out nearly all of Jonesboro’s 16-point halftime lead in the third quarter. Maumelle closed the period on an 8-0 run, pulling within 45-43 to end the period.
Swift said mental toughness helped the Hurricane survive.
“I think it was mental toughness and not getting our heads down too much,” Swift said. “We dropped them in the third quarter, everybody saw it, but at the end of the third quarter they regrouped. We came out and scored the first two buckets, and we got the bench energy going again.”
Junior guard Jesse Washington led the Hurricane with 16 points, the last coming on a free throw with 4.6 seconds remaining. Junior forward Kavon Pointer added 10 points and seven rebounds.
State tournament MVP Keyln McBride added eight points for the Hurricane. Sophomore forward Devarius Montgomery had nine points and seven rebounds.
Wade and Joshua Denton scored 12 points each for Maumelle, followed by Darvis Rasberry with 11. The Hornets were 9-of-12 from the field in the third quarter and finished the night shooting 47.7 percent from the field.
Jonesboro led 54-48 after McBride drilled a 3-pointer with 4:15 remaining in the game, but Maumelle wasn’t quite done. Jaylon Smith drilled a 3 with 3:25 remaining to pull the Hornets within 54-51 again.
Amarion Wilson made two free throws for Jonesboro at the 2:24 mark, but was called for an offensive foul with 1:39 to go and Denton scored for the Hornets. Nico Davillier’s basket with 36 seconds remaining shaved Jonesboro’s lead to a point, 56-55.
The Hurricane beat the press and Bradley Richardson made one of two free throws with 20.7 seconds to play. Rasberry drew a foul in the paint with 5.5 seconds remaining, but could only make one of two free throws and Washington rebounded the miss.
After Washington sank the second of two free throws, the Hornets advanced the ball into the front court and called time with two seconds to play. They gave the ball to Wade, but his shot from the corner was not close and the Hurricane stormed the court in celebration.