PCA beats Newton, advances to District 5-A title game

Published 12:07 am Saturday, February 5, 2011

FLOWOOD — Newton Academy had the ball in its best shooter’s hands, momentum and time on its side — everything it needed to finish off an improbable comeback.

Porters Chapel, though, had a little luck and the lead, and that trumped everything else.

Newton’s Dillon Williams missed a 25-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer, allowing PCA to escape with a 45-43 victory in the semifinals of the District 5-A tournament Friday night.

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With the win, PCA (13-6) advanced to its first district tournament final since 2006. It will face host University Christian tonight at 5:45. PCA also clinched no worse than a No. 2 seed in next week’s MAIS Class A South Central state tournament, which will also be played at University Christian.

“It feels great. It’s the first time in a long time we’ve made it to the championship game,” said PCA center Talbot Buys, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds. “We wanted to beat Newton because they beat us in the (football) playoffs and twice this year. It’s time to beat University Christian now.”

Neither Newton (17-6) nor PCA led by more than three points until the final minutes Friday night. PCA, battling foul trouble, went to a stall after Matthew Warren’s 3-pointer gave it a 38-36 lead in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. The tactic led to a basket by Talbot Buys and a free throw each from Kawayne Gaston and Ted Brisco. That, along with a few defensive stops, allowed the Eagles to creep out to the biggest lead of the night for either team, 45-38, with a minute left.

Just when it looked like PCA could put it on cruise control, however, it went into meltdown mode. Williams hit a 3-pointer, two straight PCA possessions ended in turnovers, and Andrew Hanna converted a steal into a transition layup to cut it to 45-43 with 36 seconds left. Another PCA turnover gave Newton the ball 11 seconds later.

“It looked like we were fixing to run off with it for a minute,” PCA coach E.J. Creel said. “Then, because of the foul trouble, we had some different personnel running something we hadn’t done before.”

Newton had hit eight 3-pointers in the game — Williams, who finished with 17 points, made four — and there was never a doubt the Generals were going for the win on their final possession.

They spent most of the final 25 seconds trying to get Williams in position for the go-ahead 3-pointer. He finally got to a spot a few steps from the top of the key, the same area he had hit a game-tying 3-pointer from at the end of the first half. This one, though, skidded off the left side of the rim. Warren grabbed the uncontested rebound as time expired and the Eagles were able to celebrate their narrow escape.

“I don’t think I breathed the whole game,” Creel said with a laugh. “I’m proud that we made stupid mistakes at the end and still didn’t get down.”

Although Williams had a good open look, Newton coach Bobby Richardson said the final shot wasn’t the one he wanted him to take. The plan was to get him to a spot closer to the right wing, but it never materialized.

“We were going to try and win it at the end. They just panicked,” Richardson said. “He (Williams) was going to shoot the shot, but that wasn’t the one we were looking for.”