Donta Harris’ 30-Point Night + Tiarel Franklin’s Late Free Throw Sends Laneville to 1A D-II Title Game
AUSTIN -- It's not about how you start, but how you finish. And Laneville capped Friday night's semifinal with a strong fourth-quarter performance.
Donta Harris hit eight 3-pointers and finished with 30 points, Tiarel Franklin knocked down the go-ahead free throw with 9.7 seconds remaining and the Yellow Jackets are through to the state championship game after a thrilling 55-54 win over Miller Grove in their Class A Division II semifinal at the Frank Erwin Center.
Laneville (33-6) will face Water Valley (28-5) at 7 p.m. Saturday for the 1A D-II championship, while Miller Grove's magical season capped by its first-ever state tournament ended with a 27-10 record.
Miller Grove's Patrick Covington, who finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds, put back a miss to tie the game at 54-54 with 47 seconds remaining. Laneville looked like it would hold for the final shot, but Harris found a cutting Franklin near the basket and a foul sent him to the line.
"We shoot a ton of free throws every single day, and we shoot a lot of pressure free throws to put them on the spot," said Laneville coach Hosea Lee. "So we've been in that situation before, and our team's been in that situation before from a resiliency standpoint."
After the second free throw rimmed out, Miller Grove grabbed the rebound and raced down to other side of the floor. Covington was faced with a double-team and he kicked it out to Aaron Smith, who's 3-point shot at the buzzer was partially blocked by Harris and fell well short of the basket.
"If they missed (the second free throw) we wanted to go," said Miller Grove coach Gary Billingsley. "We did not want to give them a chance to set up, and if there was nothing there I was going to call a timeout. With about 4.3 left, I called one but (the official) failed to see me. (Covington) kicked it out, we told him if you're doubled, kick it to Aaron."
The fourth quarter belonged to Laneville, which trailed Miller Grove 42-36 entering the final period. But three 3-pointers by Harris in the first 1:32 of the stanza got Laneville within one, and Kendrick Anderson's layup gave the Yellow Jackets a 47-46 lead with 5:49 remaining.
"I thought we just stepped up and made plays," Lee said. "Initially we wanted to go inside to Kendrick, but he was rushing a little bit. We thought once he got a layup it would open up some things for us. Donta stepped up and made some big shots for us, which is probably the difference in the game. I thought we came out a little flat, but in the fourth quarter we got after it and played the way we play. We were able to create some turnovers and create some situations in order for us to win the basketball game."
Anderson, who finished with 11 points, hit two more baskets to increase Laneville's lead to 54-48 with 3:27 to play. But Nathan George's layup, a jumper by Logan Miller and Covington's putback drew the teams even with less than a minute remaining.
Miller Grove shot 55.3 percent from the field to counteract its 26 turnovers, which fortunately for the Hornets only led to 13 Laneville points.
"We knew that if we could make it a half-court game we'd have a shot," Billingsley said. "We played them early in the year and we turned the ball over a lot in the fourth quarter that led to layups. Today I thought we did a good job … if we're going to turn it over, at least turn it over at their basket and they don't go shoot a layup. We've shot the ball well from 2 all year, so it's not a big surprise."
Laneville had a tough go of it in the early going, connected on just 8-of-28 shots in the first half.
"I thought Miller Grove did a good job of helping, and we knew that," Lee said. "I kept telling our kids 'we've gotta make shots.' Tra Alexander stepped up and made some big 3's in the first half until we got Donta going. But the thing about our basketball team is we've got four guys averaging double figures. Our kids know how to score. It wasn't our defense, we just couldn't buy a basket."
Miller Grove built a 36-29 lead midway through the third quarter before two 3-pointers and a free throw from Harris tied the game at 36-36 with 2:14 to go in the period. But the Hornets regained control by ending the third on a 6-0 run.
Harris, who missed his first eight shots, continued his hot streak in the fourth quarter. At one point he made eight consecutive 3-pointers in the game.
"Donta's made 122 3's this year; it's not uncommon for him to make a lot of 3's," Lee said. "But he was in a rhythm where every time he let it go, I knew it was going in. His rotation was there and his footwork was pretty good. He just stepped up and made big plays."
No. 2 Laneville 55, No. 9 Miller Grove 54
Boys Class A Division II State Semifinal
At Frank Erwin Center, Austin
Miller Grove 10 17 15 12 -- 54
Laneville 14 10 12 19 -- 55
MILLER GROVE (27-10) -- Patrick Covington, 25; Logan Miller, 12; Aaron Smith, 11; Nathan George, 6.
LANEVILLE (33-6) -- Donta Harris, 30; Kendrick Anderson, 11; Tra Alexander, 9; Tiarel Franklin, 5.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Miller Grove: Smith (3). Laneville: Harris (8), Alexander (2), Franklin.