Gene Phelps |Special to the Gazette
BOONEVILLE – West Union can be thankful that it was “Hammer Time” Saturday in the junior high championship basketball game of the Five-County Tournament at Northeast Mississippi Community College.
Hammer Willard scored on a last-second layup, following a pass from Greer Manning, to lead the Eagles to a thrilling 51-49 victory against Booneville.
“I was thinking I was going to miss it. I was happy I made it,” Willard said. “It’s crazy. It feels amazing.”
West Union coach Timbo Henderson drew up the play during a timeout. It’s one he’d seen scouting film during the season.
"I was hoping it would work. We got lucky and it did,” Henderson said. “We had cutters going on both sides. Their help jumped over and left the backside wide open. It wasn’t just like you draw it up, but it was close enough.
“Greer made the right decision and Hammer made the layup.”
Booneville had tied the game a 3-pointer with 49 seconds remaining, setting up the dramatic finish at Bonner Arnold Coliseum.
“I had options,” said Manning, who took the inbounds pass for West Union on the play. “I could either go to the goal or I had two ways to pass it. (Hammer) flashed down low and was open.”
Booneville watched a desperation 3-pointer missed at the buzzer.
West Union, which lost to Baldwyn in last year’s championship game on the same floor, finished the season with an 18-2 record and the title trophy.
“We fell one game short last year,” Henderson said. “It was pretty evident that it left a bitter taste in their mouth. They wanted a shot to come back. They took advantage of it. I’m proud for them.”
Booneville led 31-27 at halftime only to see West Union rally to take a 39-38 third-quarter lead on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Sawyer Youngblood.
Cole Morris Willard and Benjamin Carter scored 12 points each to lead West Union. Manning added 10 while Hammer Willard and Keylen Hall had seven apiece.
(G) Blue Mountain 43, West Union 14
Avarre Foote scored a game-high 20 points to lead Blue Mountain in the girls championship game.
For West Union, which finished with a 17-2 record, Laina Corder and Zoey Wright scored five points apiece.