By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The debut of the Millington Christmas Tournament presented by Oseman Insurance Agency featured four games in the William Osteen Gymnasium.
And the best contest on the opening day Dec. 21 was the thriller between the Munford Cougars and the Olive Branch Conquistadors. The undersized Cougars were behind 14-7 after one quarter.
Munford rallied in the second quarter to grab a 21-20 advantage at halftime. Then the game became a seesaw affair with Olive Branch leading 47-45 in the final seconds.
The Cougars had three shots to tie the game before the final buzzer. Olive Branch prevailed with the two-point victory and advanced in the winners’ bracket.
“I’m proud of the fact that we’re able to feel disappointed after this game,” Munford Head Coach Ryan Ross said. “Because at the beginning of the year, I don’t think our guys would have felt disappointed. This would have been a morale victory.
“We talked before the game and said, ‘There are no morale victories tonight. Let’s go win this game,’” he added. “The guys took that to heart. We did come out with a slow start but started competing.”
Munford’s slow start coincided with the solid play of Conquistador bigs DJ Jefferies and Antavion Collum on defense. And the outside shooting of Olive Branch guard Tray Boyd gave the Conquistadors a 7-point advantage after 8 minutes.
The Cougars regrouped in the second quarter outscoring Olive Branch 14-6. Munford players Kelan Ivy, Alex Jones and Domonique Bell had all hit baskets during the stretch.
With the score 20-18 in favor of Olive Branch, Cougar Montrel Miller drained a baseline three-pointer just before the buzzer.
The third quarter both teams traded big shots keeping the game close into the fourth period.
“Down the stretch, it comes down to getting stops,” Ross said. “ And we were not able to get the big rebound. They are big, athletic and strong. We’ve got to do a better job of getting body on body, getting that bigger guy out of there to get the rebound. If you get one of those rebounds, who knows? You might win the game.”
Munford had the lead late when Bell drove to the rim for a bucket making the score 41-39.
After Olive Branch tied the game at 41-41, Jones made a basket to regain the lead for the Cougars.
Once again the Conquistadors deadlock the game with a Jefferies shot. Munford took the lead one more time at 45-43 with a Queyon Mills layup.
Olive Branch scored the next two baskets to take the lead at 47-45. Munford had a chance to tie the game with less than 10 seconds on the clock.
After three shots bounced off the rim, the buzzer sounded and Olive Branch was victorious.
“We gave ourselves a chance to win against a really good team,” Ryan said. “I’m really proud of our guys’ effort. I’m really proud of the progress we’ve made. We’ve come a long way.”
Munford finished the Millington Christmas Tournament 2-1 with wins over Wooddale and Memphis Metro. Mills was named to the All-Tournament team.
“I hope they learn if we play our game and execute, we can beat anyone,” Ryan said. “Get that thing close in the fourth quarter and make the plays necessary down the stretch to win. We gave ourselves an opportunity to do that tonight just didn’t make that one or two big plays down the stretch to win.
“Give them a lot of credit too, they’ re extremely well-coached and did some good things down the stretch to win,” he concluded.