MORRILTON – Winning streaks end. Magnolia had a great two-year, 54-game run but for the first time in three years, another team will earn the title of Arkansas Class 4A champion.

The Morrilton Devil Dogs, playing for a home audience, beat the two-time defending state champion Panthers 70-64 on Saturday afternoon at the Class 4A State Basketball Tournament.

Morrilton advances to play Little Rock Mills in the title game at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Bank OZK Arena in Hot Springs. Mills defeated Blytheville 51-45 in the other semi-final.

Morrilton took a 5-0 lead on a 3 by Devin Foster and a pair of foul shots by Joseph Pinion.

This wasn’t the first time that Magnolia has trailed early during a tournament season game, only to come back and dominate their opponents in the end. The Panthers immediately tore into an 18-point run and an 18-7 lead at the end of the first period.

Devonta Walker got things going with a bucket. Adrian Walker grabbed a defensive rebound and passed to Colby Garland, who laid in 2 at the other end. Derrian Ford got a loose ball and charged into the lane for a left-hand jam. It hit the rim but Ford was fouled and made the first of two from the line to tie the game at 5-5.

Magnolia took a 6-5 lead on a foul shot from Adrian Walker. He followed it with a 3 moments later for a 9-5 advantage for the Panthers.

Morrilton came back, outscoring Magnolia 21-13 in the second period.

Magnolia’s Jaquan Scott opened the second period with a three-pointer and a 21-11 Panthers lead, but shooting by Henry Cowles and Brock Hendrix wore away at the Magnolia lead.

The half ended on a basket by Morrilton’s Cowles.

Quick baskets by Garland and Ford gave Magnolia a 35-28 lead early in the third period. Magnolia went up by 8 points after Adrian Walker intercepted a pass and was fouled going for the basket. Magnolia led 42-34 with 4:45 left in the third.

But Morrilton reeled off 7 unanswered points – 5 by Pinion – to take a 43-42 lead. Adrian Walker came back with 2 and a bonus and a 45-43 Magnolia lead. Garland put Magnolia up 47-43.

Three points from Morrilton’s Devin Foster and two from Darrius Allison put Morrilton back on top, 48-47.

Magnolia’s best offensive play of the night followed. Garland got into the lane and passed to Ford, coming in from the left of the basket for an Ally Oop. Magnolia led 49-48.

Morrilton’s Hendrix scored a 3 and Garland hit a 2 as the third period ended in a 51-51 tie.

The Devil Dogs chomped down on the Panthers at that point, going on an 11-1 run. Garland answered with a 3 but Morrilton’s Hendrix cancelled it with one of his own and a 65-55 lead with a little over two minutes left.

Magnolia still had some game. Garland made a pair of foul shots and Devonta Walker scored on a steal.

Nevi Tell stole Morrilton’s inbounding pass after Walker’s score, and fed Garland for 2. Magnolia trailed 65-61 with 2:14 to play.

Garland was fouled on the next exchange but could not convert. He then fouled out, and Morrilton’s Hendrix made both shots for a 67-61 Devil Dogs lead.

Ford scored and was fouled on the other end. He made the shot to close the gap to 67-64.

But with time running out, Hendrix made a foul shot and Darrius Allison scored 2 for the 70-64 final.

Derrian Ford led Magnolia with 20, followed by Garland with 17, Adrian Walker with 12, Devonta Walker with 7, and Nevi Tell and Jaquan Scott 3 each.

Brock Hendrix led Morrilton with 17 points. Pinion had 15. Allison had 13. Cowles scored 11 points.

Any basketball team would be proud to achieve what the Panthers have done in the past three seasons, when playmakers Ford and Garland came aboard as freshmen.

Magnolia was 23-5 in 2019, when the Panthers under Dyun Long beat Little Rock Mills in overtime for the Class 4A title.

Magnolia was 26-0 in 2020 – Ben Lindsey’s first year as head coach. The Panthers were poised to play the Mills Comets again in a rematch of their 2019 title game when the emerging COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of the state basketball finals. Magnolia and Mills were declared co-champions.

Magnolia finishes the 2021 season 23-1. That’s a three-year record of 72-6, or a winning percentage of 92.3.

Morrilton was able to settle a score from the 2019 Class 4A tournament, held in Magnolia. The Panthers beat the Devil Dogs 64-56 in a quarter-final game.

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