By Thomas Sellers Jr.
ARLINGTON — The free throws were not falling for the Collierville Dragons nursing a 53-51 overtime lead against the Arlington Tigers.
The Region 8-3A runner up Dragons were moments away from a Sectional upset of the Region 7-3A champions. But for the sixth time, a foul shot bounced off the rim. Instead of the ball finding the hands of an Arlington player, Dragon junior Chris Sims was the recipient of the rebound.
In the game replacing senior Jordan Coleman who was disqualified for fouls, Sims immediately went back up with the rebound to give the Tigers some security with the final seconds running off the Arlington Gymnasium clock.
The backbreaking bucket by Sims crushed the hopes of Tigers and helped the Dragons realize their dream of reaching the 2021 Class 3A State Basketball Tournament next week in Murfreesboro 55-51.
“That was a huge, huge win,” Collierville Head Coach Scott Robinson said. “We played really well the first three quarters. The last quarter we tried to give it away. I told our guys at the beginning of the game, ‘the team that sticks together the most is going to find a way to win.’ Fortunately we found a way to win. We were 0-6 from the foul line at the end of the game. We tried to give it away again in overtime. But fortunately offensive rebounds, Chris Sims stepped up big time and got it done.”
After the first two quarters were deadlocked at 28-28, the Dragons came out flaming hot in the third quarter with a 15-5 run. Jordan Jenkins sparked the Collierville third quarter surge with a three-pointer to make the score 31-28.
The next Dragon basket was a Davon Barnes slam in the dunk. Barnes went on to score three more baskets in the period. Then his tag team partner Jenkins drove to the rim for layup to make the score 43-33 in favor of the Dragons.
The Tigers closed out the third period with the final three points to make the tally 43-36. Arlington chipped away at the deficit until Javar Daniel achieved a three-point play. The power forward grabbed a rebound and released a shot with a couple of Dragons hanging over him. Daniel’s foul shot gave Arlington a 46-45 lead late in the fourth.
Daniel added two more free throws that gave Arlington a 48-45 advantage. Collierville had an answer when Jenkins tied the game with a three-pointer.
Before fouling out Coleman regained the lead for the Dragons with a foul shot to make the score 49-48. Coleman fouled out later in the game and was replaced by Sims.
“It’s just like the whole game you’re waiting for something like that,” Sims said. “You can’t force something like that.”
After the Tigers’ Madison Peaster tied the game with a free throw, Sims played solid defense helping to send the game to overtime tied at 49-49.
In the extra period, Jenkins and Barnes gave the Dragons a 51-49 with a free throw each.
“You’ve got to know who can do what,” Robinson noted. “And those two guys are our best offensive weapons. We were up 9 I think and then they went on a 14-0 run. Jordan hit a big three to tie it. David played awesome early. Those are our go-to guys early but the other guys are going to get shots off of them. And they just have to knock them down.”
The next Dragon to knock down a shot was Madison Taylor with a jumper with a minute and 26 seconds left in overtime. That bucket gave Collierville a 53-51 advantage. After a series of fouls by the Tigers trying to regain possession, Collierville missed its sixth free throw in a row.
“Fortunately (Chris) went back up and made because we weren’t making free throw,” Robinson said. “Chris didn’t play to the very end of the fourth but he was ready. He played great defense. He got the ball out of bounds stepped up and played great defense. That’s the thing about our team we have a lot of guys who can do a lot things. We just have to play together to win. We don’t have overwhelming talent but our kids stuck together and played hard.”
Sims made the shot with time ticking off the clock, Arlington got the ball inbounds with less than 10 seconds and couldn’t find a connection. The buzzer sounded and all the Dragon players ran to No. 20 to celebrate.
“You’re time is going to come when it’s going to come,” Sims said. “You’re a part of the team no matter what. No matter what happens, when you get your name called you have to go out there and perform. You can be sitting the whole game and come in and win the game for the team. You’re still a part of the team. Don’t ever forget that.”
The Dragons are one of eight basketball teams left in the state.
“We’ve been working hard for a long time with all this COVID stuff,” Robinson concluded. “Things are changing day to day. Games changing every other day. I’m just so proud of the guys. We’ve got a chance and that’s all you can ask for. We’re one of 8 team left and we’re there.