Take your pick of the most bizarre moments of the game, but the bottom line was that Magnolia kept its 52-game winning streak intact Friday with a 52-49 victory against Monticello.
Or maybe it was 54-49.
Either way, Magnolia will play Watson Chapel for the 4A-South Regional basketball championship at 7 p.m. Saturday in Star City. Magnolia and Watson Chapel, with Monticello and Camden Fairview vying for third place, will all advance to next week’s Class 4A state tournament in Morrilton.
Friday night’s regional semi-final featured drama on multiple levels. The Billies, who were the last basketball team to beat the Panthers two years ago, were primed to upset the state’s top-ranked basketball team and almost pulled it off.
But in the final nine seconds, a Monticello freshman couldn’t hit a free throw that would have given his team a lead in the scorebook.
At the opposite end of the court, an errant bounce ricocheted off the foot of a Monticello player and into the hands of Devonta Walker, whose 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Panthers their victory.
But let’s rewind.
The lead changed hands from the opening basket. Monticello took a 2-0 lead on Nickalon Smith’s shot. Magnolia’s Adrien Walker responded with a 3-pointer. Ked Anderson hit 2 for a 4-3 Monticello lead, but the Panthers appeared to settle down after buckets by Colby Garland, Nevi Tell, a 3-pointer from Derrian Ford and a basket by Devonta Walker, gave Magnolia a 12-8 lead.
Magnolia led 15-14 at the end of the first quarter.
This was when things got weird.
Monticello’s Nick Smith (not to be confused with Nickalon Smith) hit 2 for a 16-15 Billies lead. Devonta Walker scored 2 for a 17-16 Magnolia advantage.
Inexplicably, the scoreboard in the new Star City gym indicated that Monticello was ahead 18-15.
K.J. Burks scored 2 for Monticello, giving Monticello a scoreboard lead of 20-15 when the actual score was Monticello 18, Magnolia 17.
A conference ensued at the scorer’s table – Magnolia insisted the score was wrong but the official scorer insisted that the 20-15 score was correct. Automatic tabulation readouts on the scoreboard, which records the scores for individual players, also indicated that the official score was incorrect. And, of course, anyone watching the game on the YouTube live stream could have backed up the video and watched the scoring sequence again, showing that Monticello had a 18-17 lead, and not a 20-15 lead.
However, the marks in the scorebook are official, and the game officials ordered that play continue with the erroneous score.
After Burks missed a foul shot, Magnolia went on a mini-run. Colby Garland scored 2. Devonta Walker missed the front end of a one-and-one. Nevi Tell scored, followed by another Garland bucket.
At this point, the official score was a 21-20 Magnolia lead, although the Panthers were actually ahead 23-18.
Monticello’s Nick Smith went to the foul line for two shots, making the first but missing the second. The game was officially tied 21-21, but the actual score was a 23-19 Magnolia lead.
Ford and Tell both scored baskets before the end of the half, and Monticello’s Nick Smith scored two from the line.
The official halftime score was a 25-23 Magnolia lead. The actual score was a 27-21 Magnolia lead.
For the sake of simplicity, the balance of this article will cite the official score – readers should keep in mind that Magnolia actually had two more points than the scores below indicate.
Tell put Magnolia up 27-23 but 5 straight points by Nick Smith gave Monticello a 28-27 lead. Devonta Walker hit 3 but Burks tied the score at 30-30.
With Magnolia leading 36-33, Monticello’s Nick Smith scored on a fast break and was fouled. He hit the foul shot to tie the game at 36-36.
Magnolia was cold during its next possession, and Monticello’s Ked Anderson put the Billies up 38-36. Monticello regained possession and Nick Smith got a basket and a foul shot. He missed the foul shot but Monticello led 40-36 at the end of the third period.
Adrian Walker got a lay-up for Magnolia to cut the score to 40-38.
Nick Smith hit the back end of a free throw as Monticello led 41-38.
Ford got his own rebound and closed the score to 41-40.
Magnolia took a 44-41 lead on successive baskets by Ford and Garland.
Nick Smith laid in a shot from under the basket. Garland answered from the lane and off the glass with 2. Magnolia led 46-43 with 1:26 to play.
Ford missed two foul shots. K.J. Burks scored 2 points but Magnolia led 46-45.
Ford went to the line again and made both foul shots for a 48-45 Magnolia lead.
Burks made 2 more points and got a turnover on the Magnolia end.
With 9 seconds left and a 48-47 Magnolia lead, Monticello freshman Quey Rhodes drew a foul and went to the line for two shots. He made the first to tie the game at 48, but the second hit the rim and rolled off to the right.
Devonta Walker got the rebound and passed to Ford, who dribbled down the right side.
A Ford bounce hit the left foot of Monticello’s Ked Anderson, who was facing outward from the free throw line. The ball shot back toward Devonta Walker at the top of the key. He snagged the ball with his right hand and immediately fired toward the basket as the buzzer sounded.
The 3-pointer gave Magnolia its 51-48 win. Or its 53-48 win.
Ford had 13 points. Adrian Walker had 12 points. Colby Garland had 10. Devonta Walker and Nevi Tell both had 8.