Buzzer-beater gives Falcons state title

Gene Phelps | Special to the Gazette

OXFORD – Zach Shugars – his ACL a wreck 10 months ago – sank a buzzer-beating jumper to give Ingomar a pulse-pounding 47-45 victory Thursday over Baldwyn and a Class 1A state championship.

Shugars, who had his knee surgically repaired during the summer, was 1-for-5 from the field before his dream shot dropped through the net in The Pavilion at Ole Miss.

“I was about to go in and try to draw free throws,” said the 6-foot-2 junior guard. “I saw a gap and I just let to go.”

Shugars, who was coming off back-to-back 20-point games in the state quarterfinals (20 against Coffeeville) and semifinals (21 against Shaw), finished with just four points.

However, his winning field goal against Baldwyn will remain forever in Falcons’ championship lore.

The win gave Ingomar (36-2) its first state championship since 2010 and the ninth overall for the boys program … and earned the first career gold ball for ninth-year head coach Jonathan Ashley.

Ingomar lost in the finals last season to Bay Springs.

Baldwyn (18-13), coached by former Ingomar assistant coach Grant Goolsby, had tied the game with eight seconds remaining on a putback by Riley Hoard.

Instead of calling a timeout, Ingomar’s Tyson Smithey inbounded the ball to point guard Hunter Bynum. He dribbled down the court and found Shugars open.

“We practice that. We don’t want (the opponent) to set up their defense,” Ashley said. “We pushed it. I knew when Zach got across the top of the key, he was going to get separation.

“I don’t think it could have ended better for a kid whose torn his ACL and worked hard to get back. He couldn’t get going offensively tonight, but he kept playing. Eventually, he made the play.”

Ingomar had beaten Baldwyn, their Division 2-1A rivals, twice during the season by 21 and 22 points.

“They seemed more amped up today than the past two times we played them,” said Ingomar senior forward Clayton Stanford. “They played a lot harder today, made a lot more shots.”

Stanford was named the game’s MVP after scoring a game-high 20 points. He scored 10 of those in the fourth quarter.

The Falcons shot 40 percent and hit just 2 of 9 3-point attempts. They out rebounded the Bearcats 34-23 with senior forward Tyson Smithey grabbing a game-high 13 boards.

“I knew I had to attack the glass,” said Smithey, who played his third straight game with a mask to protect his broken nose.

Smithey’s two putbacks late in the second quarter helped his team take a 17-16 first-half lead.

Ingomar went on a 12-2 run to start the second half – fueled by 3-pointers from Bynum and senior guard Nathan Weeden. The Falcons took a 33-27 into the fourth quarter.

Baldwyn guard Gabe Richardson, who led his team with 19 points, connected on 6-of-6 free throws in the final two minutes.

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