McGill-Toolen 64, Sparkman 61: Yellow Jackets rally, down Senators in overtime

Posted March 19, 2018

McGill-Toolen 64, Sparkman 61: Yellow Jackets rally, down Senators in overtime

Down by 12 points at the half, McGill-Toolencoach Phillip Murphy wanted to make sure his team got one message heading to the lockers.

“We aren’t going away,” he said. “I screamed it like 30 times.”

Message received.

The fifth-ranked Yellow Jackets outscored No. 4 Sparkman 31-19 in the second half to force overtime and then stunned the Spartans 64-61 in the Class 7A state semifinals.

McGill (25-6) will play for its second state title in three years at 5:45 p.m. Saturday at the BJCC’s Legacy Arena. The Yellow Jackets will play No. 1 Mountain Brook, which rolled past Central-Phenix City in the day's other semifinal.

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“Wow,” Murphy said. “I don’t know if it is just the way I feel or not, but we feel like the teams that come out of the South Region don’t get as much respect as the other teams in 7A. I think we proved today we can play with anyone.”

Sparkman (30-5) led by as many as 16 in the final minute of the first half, but the Yellow Jackets scored the final four points – including a breakaway layup from Peter McDonald as time expired – to cut the margin to 36-24.

“Really, I think the key moment in the game came when we were up 16 right before the half,” Sparkman coach Jamie Coggins said. “We had a rebound and didn’t secure it. They go down and score and then score again right at the end and the margin goes from 16 to 12. It gave McGill momentum and, for some reason, changed the complexion of the game.”

Sparkman scored the first bucket of the second half to go back up by 14, but McGill then went on a 16-4 run.

Manny Patrick’s 3 cut the lead to 42-40 with 1:49 left in the period. Sparkman led 46-40 heading to the fourth.

“We changed up a little bit and went to a zone and I think that kind of slowed them down and took them out of their rhythm,” Murphy said. “Then we went back to guarding them in a half-court man. I think it kind of got the tempo in our favor.”

The Yellow Jackets eventually tied the game at 52-52 on Eric Toth’s three-point play with 1:37 left in regulation and went ahead (54-53) on McDonald’s drive with 44 seconds left. The game was tied 55-55 after a Toth free throw with 16.5 left, and Sparkman had a good look at the win.

After a timeout with nine seconds left, Darron Howard got off a jumper from just outside the free throw line that circled the rim before falling out.

“Agony,” Coggins said. “We put the ball in Darron’s hands. He’s made plays for us all year long. We said go make another. He got a little separation. It was all over the rim. I thought it was down. That’s the way it goes sometimes. You deal with it and go on.”

McDonald scored the first to baskets of OT to give McGill the lead for good (59-55). The Senators made another run, getting within 62-61 on Ellis Lee’s 3 with 1:16 left. However, Matthew Russ hit two free throws with 20.9 left in the game, and Sparkman’s final shot at a 3 was off the mark.

Game ball: Eric Toth played on McGill’s 2016 state championship team but opted to concentrate on baseball last season. He returned this year and made some of the biggest plays of the game. He scored six of his 10 points in the fourth quarter and also grabbed 10 rebounds in the game.

“He decided to focus on baseball last year,” Murphy said. “He came to me last spring and asked me if he could come back. I said, ‘no problem.’”

Stat sheet: For McGill, Patrick and Russ each scored 12 to lead a balanced effort. Patrick also had nine rebounds before fouling out in the overtime period. McDonald finished with 10 points. Matthew McNeece had nine points and six rebounds. For Sparkman, Malik Tyson had 14 points. Lee followed with 13 and Howard finished with 11.

By the numbers: 36 – rebounds for McGill compared to 31 for Sparkman. 4 – 3-pointers in 17 tries for the Senators. McGill was 5-of-14. … 51 – percent of shots McGill made from the field (22 of 43). Sparkman shot 36 percent (20 of 55). ... 3 -- key players fouled out (Sparkman's Tyson and McGill's Eric Garror and Patrick).

Coachspeak: “To overcome that deficit against that team is a testament to what these kids are all about. Sparkman is a very, very good team. I watched a bunch of film on them, and they were even better out there today.” – Murphy.

They said it ... :

“Sparkman goes about 12 deep. I knew we needed more bodies. We had been rotating about eight guys. I knew we had to get that number up. We also have some young guys starting to figure things out. Everyone stepped up. It was fun to watch. It was fun to be a part of a special game like that.” – Murphy.

“I knew the game was on the line. We had to battle for everything today against a great team. I’m proud of my teammates.” – Toth on his key three-point play late.

“We had the momentum after the half. We got on a roll there in the third. I was fortunate to get a dunk on a breakaway and that seemed to change everything. The momentum of that run gave us a spark.” – McNeece.

“No. 1, I’m proud of these young men for the great year we had. I told them in the lockerroom that one game does not define you. You have to look at the whole body of work. We were ranked near the top of the poll all year. That was due to the consistency of these young men. They brought it every night. Today, we fell a little short, but I thought we put it all out there. You have to give McGill-Toolen credit. They made some plays in the second half and got it going.” – Coggins.

“Us burning them on the press break to get the layup at the buzzer was a big momentum swing. You could feel it walking in the lockerrom. I felt it myself. That was a moment where our kids I think thought, ‘Ok, we’ve settled. We can play with them.’ Then the whole second half, I think momentum was in our favor most of the time.” – Murphy on the final seconds of the first half.

“We’ve had one of those go against us earlier this year when we played the No. 2 team in the nation, Riverside out of Louisiana. It went in. When that ball is in the air, you are just thinking, ‘please let it bounce one time, bounce one time. We got the bounce.” – Murphy on Sparkman’s near-miss at the end of regulation.


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