Basketball can be a complicated game at times. Keeping it simple gave McKinley its first EBR/Bob Pettit/Coca-Cola boys basketball tournament title since 2007.
The second-seeded Panthers played stifling defense that limited top-seeded Zachary to 33 percent shooting from the field and also made 7 of 12 free throws in the final 1:33.
It was the perfect formula to give McKinley a 45-39 victory over Zachary in the EBR championship game Thursday night at Tara. The win gave McKinley an EBR tournament sweep after the girls team won the event last month.
“I knew I had to step up big on defense … we all did,” tourney MVP Tyrece Radford of McKinley said. “Free throws are always big, especially in games like this. We practiced them for about 30 minutes before we came here.”
The 6-foot-4 Radford scored a game-high 19 points. Marcus Coleman hit four free throws for McKinley (11-6) in the final 1:33 and finished with 12 points.
“Free throws are big part of any game, especially a tournament when you’ve played three games in three days,” McKinley coach Harold Boudreaux said. “It’s important to step to the line and knock them down when it’s time to make them.
“The defense looked like a zone, but it was really a man situation with a lot of help. Just a lot junk we threw out there that worked for us tonight.”
Corey Kennedy's 15 points paced Zachary (11-7). The Broncos never led and made just 16 of 48 shots from the field. The Broncos never made a decisive run, leaving coach Jonathan McClinton to lament what could have been.
“We’ve had trouble with zone-type defenses all year,” McClinton said. “When you can’t score, you can’t win. We had chances and couldn’t capitalize. This was another chance to beat a quality team, and we didn’t.”
One key point for the Broncos came in the fourth quarter. Zachary made just 1 of 4 free throws with 5:51 left after a personal foul and a technical foul were called on McKinley. Instead of possibly trailing by four points, the Broncos trailed 33-26, opening the door for McKinley to extend its lead to double digits.
MHS set the tone early. Radford scored four points to help McKinley race to an 8-0 lead. Zachary pulled within 8-6 when Calvin Adams made a floater in the lane. Josh Gordon’s 3-pointer from the left corner with 15 seconds left gave the Panthers a 13-6 lead going into the second quarter.
McKinley limited Zachary to 8-for-25 shooting from the field in the first half. The Panthers built a 10-point lead in the second quarter.
Radford’s bucket under the goal gave McKinley a 20-10 lead with 3:22 to go in the half. But Zachary scored nine of the final 12 points in the half, cutting McKinley’s lead to 23-19.
A 3-pointer from the right corner by Coleman was the biggest play in the third quarter with 1:18 left and gave the Panthers a 32-23 edge going into the final quarter.
As McKinley left the huddle to start the fourth quarter, Boudreaux reminded them to make their free throws. Radford made 5 of 6 from the line early in the quarter. Kennedy’s basket and a free throw got Zachary to within five, at 42-37, with 39 seconds left. Coleman made two more free throws to clinch the win.
“Those kids deserve this tournament tonight,” Boudreaux said. “I told them, 'This is for McKinley.’ ”