ANNA — Anna-Jonesboro trailed by five at the start of the fourth quarter, but outscored Carterville 23-8 to hold off the upset-minded Lions, 68-58, in a River-to-River Mississippi Division boys basketball game on Friday.
"They haven’t shot the ball lately, but for some reason I thought they would tonight," said Anna-Jonesboro Mike Chamness. "I told our guys at halftime, we kind of stole the first half because we didn’t shoot well and they did and yet we were up a point. As the second half wore down, I kept saying, 'Keep winning the round," and we did and were able to pull away at the end."
Anna-Jonesboro (7-1, 1-1 Mississippi) came into the game with a 6-1 record while Carterville was just the opposite at 1-6, but the Lions stunned the host Wildcats by holding a six-point lead at the end of the first quarter and a 52-50 lead with 6:14 remaining in the game.
Jake Parr, who led the Wildcats with 25 points, scored on an inbound pass to tie the game, and after Luke Ford missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Logan Sawyer found himself all alone under the basket to give the Wildcats the lead with 5:24 remaining.
Twenty seconds later, Parr was fouled and finished off an 8-for-8 night at the foul line, hitting both shots to increase the lead to four.
Carterville (1-7, 0-2 Mississippi) pulled back to within two on a steal and a basket by Austin Garbe under the net, but 21 seconds later, Parr scored on a drive down the lane.
Ross Pinnon poured cold water on the Lions' hopes for a comeback with a 3-pointer from the left side. Garbe cut it back to five, but Sheldon McGrath was fouled almost immediately and also made his two free throws to extend the lead back to seven with 2:50 left.
After Carterville didn’t convert on their possession, Jacob Zimmerman canned a 3-pointer from the right corner with 90 seconds remaining to up the lead to 10.
Justin Johnson, who led the game with 27 points, scored on a putback with 1:07 left, but McGrath was fouled again and made both shots to finish also finish the game perfect from the line at 6-for-6.
The Wildcats as a team missed just one of 19 from the charity stripe while the Lions could only manage 9-of-21.
The Lions began the game on a roll with Ford scoring on their first possession at the 14 second mark and again 29 seconds later on a jumper by Johnson.
The score was tied 6-6 when Dylan Valerius swished a 3-pointer to regain the lead for the Lions. Johnson added a 3-pointer to increase the lead to 12-8 and after Zimmerman scored from beyond the arc Garbe hit a 3-pointer. Johnson then scored on a layup and followed with a jumper to increase the lead to eight with 44 second left in the opening quarter.
Noah McFarland scored with 21 seconds remaining to cut the lead back to six, but Johnson hit another one to give the Lions a nine-point lead, 22-13, to open the second quarter.
Anna-Jonesboro rallied to tie the score at 24 on a 3-pointer by Parr, but the Lions rallied back to take a six-point lead on a 3-pointer by Dylan Moore with 2:14 left in the half.
A 3-pointer by Zimmerman cut the lead in half, but Ford scored on a layup to extended it back to five with 1:17 remaining. Pinnon then drew a foul and made both his free throws and then Sawyer stole the ball and scored with 20 seconds left. With time running out McGrath picked off a pass and scored with two seconds remaining to give the Wildcats a 35-34 lead at the half.
"We had a pretty good first half," said Carterville coach Shane Hawkins. "We kind of ruined it the last 20 seconds when we were trying to get the last shot and turned it over twice. We had two careless turnovers and had more in the second half."