By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Who would be the latest hero in the most recent installment of the Munford vs. Millington basketball rivalry?
Back in December, the two area rivals played another thriller with the Millington Trojans surviving 54-48 in overtime in the William Osteen Gymnasium. The rematch took place in the Munford High School Gymnasium Friday night with the contest going to an extra session again.
With the host Munford Cougars missing senior big man James Farrow, players like Kylan Cunningham and Landon Winters stepped up in the clutch. Millington answered with big-time plays from senior Hunter Klutts.
But an unexpected offensive boost from senior point guard Cameron Craft gave the Trojans enough to outlast Munford 59-58 in overtime.
“We had to be very calm,” Craft said. “We couldn’t rush anything. If we would have rushed, the score would have been different. So we calmed things down and ran our offense. We did our stuff and it helped us win.”
The Trojans earned their 11th victory of the season jumping out to a 23-18 halftime lead.
Millington junior guard Kaveyon Lewis hit a triple at the buzzer to give the Trojans a 5-point advantage.
Munford won the third quarter 19-12 to take the lead. The Cougars got scores from TJ Tyus, Kylan Cunningham and a three-pointer from Winters to deadlock the game at 28-28.
Munford outscored Millington 9-7 with a Winters triple at the horn to take a 37-35 lead into the fourth period.
The Cougars opened the final quarter of regulation with a Kyree Cunningham three-point play to make the tally 40-35. The Trojans displayed poise with big man Bobby Macklin making a bucket in the paint to make the score 40-37.
Millington’s Taveon Collier cut the deficit to a single point with a basket. Later in the quarter with the Cougars ahead 42-39, Klutts validated his clutch status with a three-pointer to tie the game.
Munford Head Coach Ryan Ross put the ball into his senior Kylan Cunningham’s hands. He delivered with two points to make the score 44-42.
Millington had the answer with Collier scoring at the rim. The game was 44-44 heading into overtime.
To get the Trojan offense rolling in the extra frame, the first bucket came from an unlikely source. The ball is normally in the hands of Craft as the point guard. After rotating the basketball around the court, Craft had a lane to the basket and hit a jumper to make the score 46-44.
“Grit and grind, I was just trying to go make a play for my team,” he said. “They put me in position to make good plays. I saw the opportunity and I went and got it.”
After the Craft shot, tis’ the season for Winters. The senior Munford guard hit another three-pointer giving the Cougars a 47-46 advantage.
That would be Munford’s last lead after Millington went to Klutts down the stretch. The senior Trojan was fouled shooting a three-pointer. He calmly made all three foul shots to make the score 49-47 in favor of Millington.
“Some people just don’t want the ball in those moments,” Klutts said. “They don’t want to miss it. They don’t want to accept that. It’s actually fun to do it and see that you make the play getting everybody hype.”
Klutts gave the Trojans some insurance hitting a triple to make the score 52-47. After a pair of Kylan free throws trimmed the deficit to three points, it was Craft again answering the call.
The senior point guard hit a shot in the lane and drew a foul. Craft’s three-point play made the tally 55-49.
Foul shots from Craft and Klutts was enough down the stretch to hold off the Cougars.
“It took everything,” Klutts said. “It took fight, desire and all the things Coach (Jewell Gates) preaches everyday in practice. We can’t settle in games like this. We have to go after it. We have to win the 50/50 balls. We’ve got to do the things the other teams doesn’t want to do.”
Both Klutts and Craft said the Trojans have to build off the rivalry victory heading into District 15-2A play. Despite winning 11 games and a William Osteen Christmas Classic title, the senior said the Trojans are back to square one.
“It’s 0-0,” Klutts said. “We have to start back over from practice. We have to go back out and win these games. We can’t get complacent. We realize we’re not as good as we think we are right now. We can always do better.
“We’ve haven’t done anything yet,” Craft concluded. “This is the beginning.”