ITTA BENA- With points at a premium, Ripley’s Asa Howard scored the biggest points of the night. Howard scored 21 points, including four in the last 20 seconds, to push Ripley over Pontotoc, 48-45, in the quarterfinals of the MHSAA Class 4A basketball state tournament held at Mississippi Valley State University on Friday. The loss ends another excellent hoops season for the Warriors.
Down 45-44, Howard hit a mid-range jumper to put Ripley up by one point with 20 seconds left, then hit both free throws with 5.6 seconds left to make it 48-45.
Pontotoc (23-9) was held without a field goal until 2:06 left in the first quarter, but Gavin Brinker scored five points to cut Ripley’s lead to 9-7 at the end of the first. The teams traded baskets in the second quarter, but Howard hit a 3-pointer and Jesus Ruedas had a steal and layup to put Ripley up 20-16 at the break.
Joe Haze Austin came out and scored nine straight points for Pontotoc in the third quarter, but Howard hit another 3-pointer and two free throws to put Ripley up 33-28 with 1:35 left in the third.
Following that, Pontotoc’s Tres Vaughn had a layup and Manoj Nickson hit a 3-pointer to tie the game, 33-33, going into the fourth.
With Pontotoc up by two points, Howard and Brinker traded 3-pointers, then Ruedas tied the game, 44-44, on a layup.
Rock Robinson then hit 1 of 2 free throws to put Pontotoc up 45-44, then Howard hit the game-winning shot with 20 seconds left to give Ripley the win.
Pontotoc finishes the season 23-9 with Division 2-4A regular season and tournament championships.
Turning Point: Up by one point, Cam Rucker drew a charge with 11.8 seconds left in the game, then Howard hit two free throws with 5.6 seconds left to put Ripley up 48-45.
Point Maker: Howard was 5 of 6 from 3-point range.
Talking Point: “I’m just proud of our effort. I thought these were two really good teams. They are well coached and I think we are pretty well coached too. It came down to one play and we were fortunate.”-Ripley coach Adam Kirk