JASPER, Tenn. — Once again it wasn't enough for the Lookout Valley boys' basketball team just to win the District 6-A tournament championship. For the second straight season the Yellow Jackets had to do so in dramatic fashion, scoring the game's final six points in the final minute for a 46-42 victory over Van Buren County.
Last year the Yellow Jackets beat Van Buren on a buzzer beater, and Tuesday night at Marion County High they held the Eagles scoreless for the final 1:26.
"It looked like they had all the momentum there late, but our kids are used to being in close games like this and they know how to find a way to win them," Jackets coach Joe Galloway said. "Our style of play is conducive for winning these type games, and we have a lot of experienced players that aren't afraid when the score is close late in the game."
Sale Creek won the third-place contest, beating South Pittsburg 58-47. All four teams advance to the Region 3 tournament this weekend.
Lookout Valley and Van Buren split their regular-season series, each winning at home by four points or less. The Yellow Jackets have now won 14 straight since losing at the Spencer school.
Lookout Valley (24-5) used a 10-0 run late in the first quarter to take control early, but the Eagles chipped away at the lead, closing the first half on an 8-2 run to pull within one.
The Yellow Jackets maintained the narrow lead through the third quarter, but consecutive baskets by Sheldon Hitchcock, the second a 3-pointer, gave Van Buren back the lead.
But tournament MVP Delaney Heathington answered with a jump shot just seconds later to help Lookout Valley regain the lead. Heathington scored six of his 18 points in the final four minutes and leaped to prevent a ball from going out of bounds, preserving a critical late possession for Lookout Valley.
"I saw the ball bouncing and nobody from their team was in the way to stop me -- they were just going to let it go out of bounds -- so I ran as fast as I could and just tossed it back hoping one of my teammates would get it," Heathington said. "They're a good team and we always have close games with them, but I think our experience in these kinds of games gives us a lot of confidence that we'll find a way to win."
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 20 years, starting at the News-Free Press as a 19-year-old reporter. He has been with the Times Free Press since its inception and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers in the nation ...