Phillip McKinney’s Clutch Free-Throw Shooting Leads Tyler Grace to Win Over Rival All Saints
TYLER -- At the most critical juncture of Friday's game, Tyler Grace put the ball in the hands of a player who had not registered a point all night. He soon shot up the scorer's column.
Senior point guard Phillip McKinney knocked down 9 of 10 free throws in the game's final 1:36 to help the Cougars close the game on a 14-0 run and take down TAPPS District 2-4A rival Tyler All Saints 60-50 in front of a jam-packed Brookshire Gym.
"Phillip McKinney … he's not the best free-throw shooter in the world, but when it comes down to it he's pretty clutch," said Grace coach Neal Welch. "He went 9-of-10 right there at the end of the game. That's a senior stepping up, who loves the moment."
Until that point, McKinney's main objective was setting up his teammates. He finished with a team-high six assists to go with his nine points as the Cougars improved to 21-3 overall and 4-0 in the district.
Trevor Gunter, a 6-5 junior forward, led Grace with 22 points -- 14 in the second half -- and nine rebounds. HIs layup, assisted by Verlo Levels, gave the Cougars the lead for good -- 51-50 with 2:54 remaining.
"You look at him … he's a taller player but he's got a slim frame to him," Welch said of Gunter. "He's so crafty around the rim. He'd been in foul trouble early on, he has a bad habit of trying to block shots because he's a good shot blocker. But sometimes he just needs to stay straight up and get wide, so he got in foul trouble. He came up with some big rebounds but offensively, especially early on, he made some big buckets for us."
Levels, who finished with 14 points, five rebounds and five assists, picked up his fifth foul moments later, which led to a stalled-approach on offense for Grace. McKinney was fouled with 1:36 to go, which began his string of game-clinching free throws.
The 10-point margin of victory was misleading as the teams went back and forth all the way through the fourth quarter, combining for six lead changes in the final period.
"I said earlier in the year that we have a good chance to do some big things this year because of our senior leadership," Welch said. "Every time we play (All Saints) it's that kind of game, it's always going to be a good game when we play. We'll see them again most likely (in the district tournament) down the road."
Matthew Brunson's layup after a steal gave All Saints (24-3, 2-1) a 50-46 lead with 4:37 remaining. Levels then brought the Cougars to within a point with his third 3-pointer of the game with 3:47 to play.
Aston Francis led All Saints with 23 points, which included five 3-pointers, to go with six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Brunson added nine points, three boards, four steals and two assists, while Jaired Maddox added eight points, four rebounds, two blocks and two assists.
The two teams combined to make 15 3-pointers on the night.
It was Francis and All Saints which had the hot hand early. Francis' second 3-pointer of the opening quarter gave the Trojans a 10-4 lead midway through the period. But Grace soon found its touch from beyond the arc, and Andrew Melhart's 3-point shot gave the Cougars a 14-12 lead going into the second quarter.
Grace hit two more 3-pointers in the second, including Levels, whose long-range jumper gave his team a 26-25 lead at halftime.
Fittingly, each team began the third quarter with 3-point baskets -- Francis for All Saints and Melhart for Grace. A long-range trey from Call Florence gave Grace a 35-30 third-quarter lead -- the biggest advantage it would have until McKinney's free-throw barrage that quieted the home All Saints crowd and ignited a spirited Grace student section.
"When you have this many people it's because of No. 1 (All Saints coach) Eddie Francis doing a great job at All Saints, you've got to give him credit," Welch said. "We brought over a lot of fans, we got our student section … it's just a great atmosphere; our cheerleaders were here and all the coaches from athletics. It's really good to see TAPPS basketball rising up like that."
Grace is back in action Tuesday at home against Dallas Parish Episcopal, while All Saints takes on Carrollton Prince of Peace on the road Tuesday.
Tyler Grace 60, Tyler All Saints 50
TAPPS District 2-4A Boys Basketball
At Brookshire Gym, Tyler
Tyler Grace 14 12 14 20 -- 60
Tyler All Saints 12 13 12 13 -- 50
TYLER GRACE (21-3, 4-0) -- Trevor Gunter, 22; Verlo Levels, 14; Call Florence, 9; Phillip McKinney, 9; Andrew Melhart, 6.
TYLER ALL SAINTS (24-3, 2-1) -- Aston Francis, 23; Matthew Brunson, 9; Jaired Maddox, 8; Luke Lee, 6; Clayton Smith, 4.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Tyler Grace: Florence (3), Levels (3), Melhart (2). Tyler All Saints: Francis (5), Brunson, Maddox.