As Elvis Presley used to sing, it was heart break hotel Thursday night for the Paris Jr. Eagles. After a gallant effort in the junior high district tournament, the Eagles fell to Perryville 47-43 in overtime of the tournament championship game. Paris, the tournament’s number four seed, and after having upset the tournament’s top seeded Fountain Lake Cobras on Monday night, was bidding to win the tournament over the home-standing and second seed Perryville Mustangs.
Paris led for most of the game. After jumping out to a 11-1 lead in the first quarter, the Eagles saw their lead evaporate to a 12-12 tie at the end of the first quarter. The game went back in forth with the Eagles hitting clutch shots against the pressure of the Perryville defense.
As the game progressed in the second half, the Eagles maintained a small lead, but were never able to put away the inspired Mustangs who were playing in front of a near-capacity home crowd. With 3:52 remaining in regulation time, the Eagles had a five point lead and were looking to close out the tournament championship. But then, the turnover bug struck, and Perryville battled back to tie the game and send it into overtime.
The Eagles started the overtime period strong, and with 1:57 remaining in overtime, Paris had a two point lead. At the 1:22 mark, Sam Muldrow hits a crucial shot, and the Paris bench erupted with the Eagles leading 43-39.
But Perryville moved down the court quickly and hit a three point shot at 1:22 remaining in overtime to pull the Mustangs within one point, 43-42.
With 32 seconds remaining in the game, Perryville took the lead, 44-43. And then, a few moments in the overtime that were not clear, as a technical foul was assessed against Paris, sending Perryville to the line with 17 seconds remaining in the overtime period. As the Perryville shooter prepared to go to the line, the Paris coaching staff argued with the officials over the foul and the assessed technical.
Perryville missed the first free throw and then hit the next two, and the result was a two point Perryville lead, 45-43 with 17 seconds remaining in overtime.
In the next possession, Paris’s Sam Muldrow was fouled, sending him to the line with 15 seconds remaining in the game. Muldrow missed the first free throw, and then hit the second. The Perryville lead was one point with 9.2 seconds remaining. Perryville then added a pair of free throws to extend the lead to three with 9.2 seconds remaining. Paris hurried down court, only to turn the ball over. The Eagles were able to get a last possession with 2.6 seconds remaining. Jesse Wells drove down the court and launched a three point attempt that just missed, bouncing off the back of the rim. The game was over, and Perryville had won the junior high district basketball tournament championship.
Basketball can be a cruel game at times. Players who have great games can find themselves isolated at a crucial moment in the game. Sam Muldrow found himself in that position has he had the opportunity to make two free throws to tie the game. Muldrow missed the first free throw. I make this point to say that Sam Muldrow played a great game, and basketball, like any other team sport, is not won or lost by one player. Sam played a great game, and the team missed multiple opportunities to win the game, despite the great effort of Sam and the entire team. All of the Eagles have much to be proud of. They upset the number one seed in the tournament, and few people thought they would be in the final with a shot to win. The entire community can be proud of everyone on this team and their performance on Thursday night. The represented themselves, their school, and their community with pride. Although it was a dejected team that accepted the tournament runner-up trophy, they can all hold their heads high for what they have accomplished in junior high school. And for the freshmen on this team, it is on to the senior high roster as they suit up for their first senior high school game tonight in Paris. Ironically, that first game will also be against Perryville.
Sam Muldrow led all Paris scorers with 14 points and added 10 rebounds, Jesse Wells had 11 points and 8 rebounds. Konnor Edwards had 10 points. Paris coach Mike Foster said after the game, “Our boys played a great game but just fell a little short. I am so proud to coach these type of hard-working young men. The team finished the season at 18-6 and district tournament runner-ups.”
So, the freshman Eagles move on to tonight’s senior high game with Perryville at Paris Gymnasium. Paris will play senior high girls and boys games that are make-up games in the schedule from an earlier cancellation by Perryville due to the closure of their school due to the flu epidemic. Tonight is the last regular season senior high game before the start of next week’s senior high district tournament that will be held at Lamar High School.
As of the publication time of this story, we know that the Paris senior boys will open the district tournament on Monday night in Lamar at 8:30 p.m. Their opponent will not be known until the completion of tonight’s games around the conference. The Paris Lady Eagles will finish as the tournament’s four seed tonight if they can defeat the Perryville Lady Mustangs. As a four seed, the Lady Eagles would play on Tuesday at 4 p.m. against the tournament winner of the Fountain Lake versus Atkins game.
If Paris cannot win tonight, they too will play on Monday at Lamar in the first round of the district tournament. The Lady Eagles would then play at 4 p.m. So, for the Lady Eagles, tonight’s game in Paris is crucial to finish as a four seed, and get an extra day of rest before playing in the tournament. With the upcoming Presidents’ Day holiday and school closure on Monday, the Lady Eagles would have a good rest day opportunity before facing the prospect of playing multiple games next week in the district tournament.
Any way you look at it, tonight is critical for both senior high teams. It could also be the first opportunity to see the teams with the expanded freshman rosters that will now be available to both coaches. Paris needs a big home crowd tonight to support the Eagles and Lady Eagles and to cheer them both to victory. Paris will be looking to gain momentum tonight that will hopefully carryover to next week’s district tournament.
And like always, Resident Press will be there to bring you all of the action on the way to the state tournament. Stay with Resident Press for complete Paris basketball coverage!