Coaches can only do so much to get their players to execute on the court, but then there are times when a player just has to make a big play, or in this case, two great plays all in a matter of less than six seconds to pull a game out of the loss column.
That’s what Sterling’s Gavin Mansel did in a heart-pounding 52-49 victory over Walters in the boys semifinals of the Comanche County Tournament Friday at the Great Plains Coliseum.
After Walters took a 49-44 lead with 56 seconds remaining the Tigers were needing everything go their way to rally and the first step came on a Riley Lile follow-shot to make it 49-46 with 46 seconds left in the game. The Blue Devils had a chance to put it away but they missed two free throws and the Tigers still had their chance.
Sterling coach Trent Parrish called time with 12.7 remaining to plot strategy but when the play failed to work, Mansel stepped back behind the 3-point line and despite a double-team against him, launched a shot that seemed to be launched from his hips and it found the mark to knot the score with 7.2 seconds left.
Walters called time to plot a late attempt to win in regulation but Mansel stole the ball, drove in for a layup and was fouled with 4-tenths of a second remaining. He made the free throw and when the Blue Devils failed to make a desperation heave, the Sterling players and fans celebrated.
“It was just good coaching,” Parrish said with a big grin after visiting with his team. “No, our goal when we were down three was to run Mansel off three screens but we didn’t execute it like we wanted. But he found a way to make a shot. Their coach (John Nease) ran a couple of defenders at him but he found a way to make it.”
On the play to win the game, it was more of one player just making something happen.
“We told the guys to not foul; but make them take some time getting the ball up-court,” Parrish said. “He just wasn’t going to be denied and got the steal and made the layup. Coach (Jayson) Wilson and I have been waiting for him to explode like that and we saw it tonight.”
But there were other heroes.
“But while Gavin made those final plays, the other guys all player their hearts out,” Parrish said. “That’s one thing I’ve learned, these Sterling kids will fight and claw regardless of the situation. The other guys made some shots and played their hearts out on defense. This was a big win for us.”
Mansel finished with 26 points, Lile added six, Clinton Moore 10, Kayden Wilson scored five and Tate Hughes four. Carter Ray led the Blue Devils with 18.
In the first boys semifinal, Big Pasture boys coach Hunter Quickle should have taped his halftime speech because something he said had a profound effect on his Rangers who pulled away in the second half to beat top-seeded Chattanooga, 62-41, in the early semifinal contest at the Great Plains Coliseum.
When those two teams headed off the court at halftime, Chatty owned a 34-27 lead and seemed in control. But the Rangers held Chatty scoreless in the third quarter and then only gave up seven points in the fourth quarter to race into tonight’s finals against Sterling.
“I just talked about effort and hustle at halftime,” Quickle said. “We knew it was going to be a game of runs and they got their run in the second quarter when we ran into some foul trouble. This game has been a long time coming. I knew we could play this well but we hadn’t that type of effort until tonight. When these guys buy in they can play with anyone.”
There were plenty of heroes but Lane Tinsley was the ringleader with 17 and a bunch of assists. And he handled the various presses that the Warriors threw at them throughout the second half.
“I thought we did a good job against their press and I thought we got a lot of loose balls on hustle plays,” Quickle said. “Lane is a junior and has been through this before. He does a good job handling the ball for us.”
Jace Skocelas added 17 as well and Hayden Tinsley, Lane’s cousin, chipped in 11 more. Jackson Franks led Chatty’s big second quarter with three treys and he wound up with team honors with 15. No other Chatty player was able to make double figures as the Rangers dominated the boards.
In boys consolation action Friday, Geronimo boys edged Tipton, 46-44, and Indiahoma bounced Fletcher with a 46-38 victory.
Today’s schedule begins at 11 a.m. with the consolation girls game matching Big Pasture and Tipton. The boys consolation game begins at 12:30 p.m. and matches Geronimo and Indiahoma.
The third-place girls game starts at 2 p.m. and matches Sterling and Walters, with the third-place boys game beginning at 3:30 between Chattanooga and Walters.
The night session begins at 6:30 p.m. when Chattanooga and Geronimo battle for the girls title. The boys title game with BP and Sterling starts at 8 p.m.