The Mansfield Sr Tigers basketball team has been a highlight reel for the past two weeks. They traveled to Magazine to beat the Rattlers in overtime just to become eligible for the Regional tournament. Then they went to the #1 Mountainburg Dragons home court and slew them in a blowout fashion. On Saturday, February 27th, the Tigers took to the road yet again and headed for Acorn to battle for the District Championship. No one gave Mansfield a chance in any of those games…..no one but them that is.
The Tigers had faced Acorn previously and lost their shoes in the two games with a combined score of 106-76. This time, on the other hand, Mansfield was not only on a streak, they had confidence in every aspect of their coach, each other, and their game. Once this monster cast battle started, there was no turning back. The Tigers jumped into action early with a fast-paced 1st quarter that ended with a narrow 18-13 lead for Mansfield. Acorn wasn’t going to let Mansfield walk away easily though. As the two clashed, it was the defenses that owned the first half. The Backboard Beast ate very well in the first half as Bri Sanderson and Zayne Dugan chewed up any Acorn player who dared to drive in towards the rim. With Acorn being forced to shoot from the outside perimeter, the Tigers took a play out of the Blue Tigers book and did the same. Codi Chick and JoJo Bailey pulled up to hit some 3’s of their own. As Acorn smothered shooter Ethan Pettus, Chick let the 3s rain. If they covered Chick, Bailey would make them pay. The battle was in full force when the halftime buzzer sounded giving the Tigers a 29-22 edge over Acorn.
Halftime didn’t cool anything down for either team. Mansfield was still hot-handed offensively and melted the soles of their shoes with hustle and moves against Acorn. The Blue Tigers came out prepared to shut down Mansfield’s perimeter shooting and went man up against Mansfield. This created the perfect assist recipe for the Tigers as they began to dish the rock down low to the Board Beasts who dumped points in from there. Now Acorn had to worry about any player in Red on the court. Although the Tigers were hot, Acorn still left little doubt that they weren’t going away as the 3rd quarter ended 42-37 in Mansfield’s corner.
The first five minutes of the 4th were the same ol song and dance. Mansfield scored then Acorn scored. Acorn shut down Mansfield and Mansfield shut down Acorn. The back and forth left splitters in the rears of fans on both sides of the court. With only seconds left in the game, Acorn tied things up at 51 all. That’s when the magic happened. Destined for overtime, Mansfield passed the ball around as time rolled down. A pass to Dugan led to a pass to Pettus which led to a pass to Tyler Escalante. At the 3 second mark, Escalante made an epic no-look pass from his hip back to Pettus who with less than a second left, released an off balance “Pettus Pop Up”. The longest and most silent 0.5 seconds passed before the Tiger faithful heard the noise…. ssswwwiiissshhh. Pettus’s shot went through the net at the exact time of the final buzzer and the Tigers pulled off yet another upset, this time with a 54-51 final for the 2A West District Championship title.
Codi Chick led with 28 points followed by JoJo Bailey with 16, Tyler Escalante with 4, and Ethan Pettus and Zayne Dugan with 3 each. “I can’t express how proud I am of our Tigers basketball team,” exclaimed Coach Keith Stovall. “Some people say luck…luck is real and I believe that. But the luck I believe in is the luck that you make for yourself. My mentor coach at Marianna, Coach James Banks, always said, “the harder you work the luckier you get.” People know about the injuries this team has endured and the quarantines we faced. We still played when others canceled. The harder you work the luckier you get! Is there luck? You bet! But these young men made the luck for themselves. They prepared themselves when the opportunity was there. Huge shout out to the fans that made the trip to Acorn and all those that watched the live stream. Now it’s on to Regionals.” The Mansfield Tigers will now jump into Regional play at Magazine on Wednesday, 3 at 1 pm against Cotter.