JACKSON — Comeback kids? More like comeback men.
For the second consecutive game, defending 6A Champion Clinton was down double figures with under five minutes to go in the game Saturday.
And for the second consecutive game, they came away with the win, except this time it was for a golden ball.
Jaylon Davis hit a pair of free throws with 3.1 seconds left to lift the Arrows over Olive Branch 76-75 to claim their second consecutive MHSAA Boys Class 6A State Championship at the Mississippi Coliseum.
The win gave Clinton’s (23-5) its third state title in school history and put a fitting bow on another great season of high school basketball in Mississippi.
“The message going into the fourth quarter was 'We ain’t losing this game.' These guys don’t quit,” said Clinton coach Leonard Taylor. “They never give up and continue to fight and I’m so blessed to be a part of these boy’s lives. They are a blessing.”
Olive Branch led the entire game until Davis' final free throw. The Conquistadors held a 21-11 lead at the end of the first quarter and a commanding 40-27 lead at halftime.
Entering the fourth quarter, Olive Branch was up 61-47 and a three-point play by Jaylyn Tyler gave the Conquistadors a 64-49 lead.
Clinton then started chipping away at the lead. Allen Hughes hit a lay-up to cut the lead down to nine points at 71-62 with 4:05 remaining. The Arrows went on a 15-4 run and cut the lead down to four points at 73-69 with 1:46 left.
Mississippi State commit Kimani Hamilton made an incredibly athletic play on a layup through contact with 13 seconds left that cut the Olive Branch lead down to 75-74, but missed the free throw.
After Olive Branch missed the front end of one-and-one, Clinton’s Allen Hughes dribbled the ball up the court and passed it off to Hamilton. He started to drive but kicked it out to Davis, who was fouled and made both free throws with 3.1 seconds left. Olive Branch's potential game-winning shot from mid-court hit the front end of the rim and bounced off as the buzzer signaled the Arrows' second-straight state title.
“I told them play one play at a time, make a defensive stop and we’d back where we need to be and I’m so proud of these guys,” Taylor said. “Kimani did what he had to do along with other key guys that stepped up to get it done.”
Hamilton finished with a game-high 24 points and nine rebounds and was named the game’s most valuable player.
“We never give up," Hamilton said. "Jaylon stepped up and made those free throws, and I knew we had to get one more stop to win the game and we got it. I got called for a charge the last time I drove to the basket, so I kicked it out to Jaylon and he got fouled and made those big free throws. It feels amazing to go back-to-back.”
Hughes added 18 points for Clinton, while Davis and Ashten Micheal-Neal each had 12 points for the Arrows.
Landon Jeffries had 20 points to lead Olive Branch, while Darren Davis added 19 points and Jaylyn Tyler had 17 points for the Conquistadors (28-5).
“I think we outplayed Clinton, but we didn’t win," Olive Branch coach Eric Rombaugh said. "We panicked a little bit, some big turnovers and not making free throws and Kimani came down and made plays. I told the boys before the game that I love them. This has been one of my favorite groups I’ve had. Nobody talked about us, and the boys fought all year and I’m proud of him. They deserve better than that.”
(All photos by Austin Frayser)