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By: David Sharp
Atlanta (3-1) jumped out to a 12-5 lead during the 2021 Novinger Tournament boys’ championship game. The Hornets took an 18-12 lead when 6’8” center Roman Phillips sank a free throw with three seconds to play in the first period.
Green City (3- 0, ranked fifth in Missouri Boys Class 1) roared back for a 32- 28 halftime lead. The Gophers held Atlanta to one point defensively in the final 3:14 of the contest, closing on a 10-1 run to a 68-58 win.
Laydon Fields led all scorers with 20 Gopher points. Landon Gilliland led the Hornets with 19 points. Much of the final three quarters were played at an intense, fast pace. Atlanta was able to build a 53-49 lead with 6:50 to play in the game.
Green City turnovers and Atlanta second chance points were factors in the contest. Green City made plays to get back even. Asher Buggs-Tipton executed a two hand slam dunk, pulling the Gophers within a 55-53 deficit with six minutes to play.
Kaden Hatcher tied the game with a hoop at the 3:45 mark of the fourth quarter. Hatcher rebounded a missed free throw, then Brody Lunsford tied the game again with 3:14 remaining at 58 all.
Green City sank free throws down the stretch. Grant O’Haver, Laydon Fields and Aaron Peavler connected from the charity stripe in the final two minutes. Asher Buggs-Tipton put the Gophers up 63- 55 at the 1:40 mark of regulation time with a driving two pointer.
Hornet head coach Jason White talked about Hornet foul trouble being a factor in the outcome during post game comments. “We have a tough time beating this club with my 6’8” post player on the bench,” Jason White said.
“When he went out, they took advantage of it. I think that was the main thing that was the difference,” Jason White said. “Our offense got out of synch with him off the floor. We see them in a week and a half.”
“That hurt us when he went to the bench. Our shot selection
was not good late in the game,” Jason White said. “We are going to watch some film and look at our shot selection and our offense. We tried to force things when we don’t normally do that.”
“I thought we stayed aggressive all night, attacking the basket,” Coach White said. “We were doing a good job attacking the press and getting lay ups. When they backed the press off, it kind of slowed us down.”
Jason Viers was the second Hornet scoring in double figures. Roman Phillips scored 11 points. Phillips was limited to two points in the second half. Freshman guard JJ White was impressive in the floor game, firing in ten Hornet points.
“We are a team that is kind of a mix,” Jason White said. “We have a lot of experience. We have a couple of freshmen that have stepped in for me. They are not afraid of the big stage. They are motivated to play hard. They are motivated to play together.”
“Green City has athletes from top to bottom. They were in the quarterfinals last year. They almost made it to the final four,” White said. “At the end of the day, when you have a group of kids that are competitors, you always have a chance to win a game. That’s who we are this year.”
Laydon Fields led Green City and all scorers with 20 points. Asher Buggs-Tipton scored 14 points. Freshman guard Xander Salas and Grant O’Haver scored nine points each. Aaron Peavler scored eight points. Brody Lunsford scored six and Kaden Hatcher added two Gopher points.”
“We just made sure we boxed out and stayed in front of them,” Kaden Hatcher told the Milan Standard. “I know I didn’t make any, but everyone else made free throws.” Green City sank eight of 14 fourth quarter free throws.
“That was good for us too,” Green City coach Donnie Fields said of the hard fought, competitive basketball game the Gophers were able to win. It was a good test early. They came out and played very well.”
“Size makes a difference. When you go 6’6” and 6’2”, that’s still bigger than anyone I have got. It took awhile to figure out how to score,” Coach Fields said. “We just started taking it at him,” Fields said of Atlanta’s 6’8” center Roman Phillips.
“We finally got him out of there. That made it a little easier. There are a lot of good athletes on both teams,” Donnie Fields said. “They have great athletes, just like we do. Good things happen when those type of players are out there.”