HOT SPRINGS -- Baptist Prep had every phase of its game working Thursday night.
Baptist Prep’s Brandon Vanover (right) drives past Malvern defender Jordan Hughes during Thursday’s game. Vanover finished with 14 points.
Baptist Prep’s Chad McGonigal (11) battles with Malvern’s Jordan Hughes for one of the Eagles’ 23 rebounds in a 61-54 victory over the Leopards.
Senior guard Cory McGonigal led a balanced attack with 17 points, the Eagles shot 57 percent from the floor, and Baptist Prep committed only four turnovers on its way to a 61-54 victory over the Malvern Leopards in the Class 4A boys championship game at Bank of the Ozarks Arena.
Connor Vanover capped a 26-8 season for the Baptist Prep Eagles by scoring 10 points and earning MVP honors in the Class 4A boys tournament. Vanover, a 7-3 sophomore, was 5 of 10 from the floor, including a dunk early in the third quarter to help Baptist Prep move out to a 33-26 advantage. He also scored on a 3-footer during a key 7-0 surge by the Eagles later in the quarter. Baptist Prep was 6 of 13 on three-pointers, which Vanover said made it easier for him and his 7-0 brother Brandon Vanover to operate under the goal.
Baptist Prep earned its fourth state title. The Eagles’ previous championship came in 2009. They also won titles in 1999 and 1997. … Malvern was playing in its first state championship game since winning back-toback state titles in 1989 and 1990. … Andre Jones scored at least 30 points in all three of Malvern’s state tournament games. … Baptist Prep had five players to shoot 50 percent or better from the floor. … Malvern had only four players to score. Baptist Prep had five players score. … There were five lead changes in the game, all in the first quarter. … Baptist Prep’s biggest lead was 11 points, which came late in the first half. … There were only eight offensive rebounds in the game, five by Malvern, 3 by Baptist Prep. There were only six second-chance points scored, four by Baptist Prep, two by Malvern.
— Tim Cooper
Four Eagles scored 10 or more points as Baptist Prep earned its first state title since 2009.
"That's how we won games all year," Baptist Prep Coach Brian Ross said. "We got four guys in double figures. Everybody shot about 50 percent from the field. They played extremely hard. They played great defense. They played unselfishly. They played that way all year."
And the Eagles (26-8) survived a 31-point effort from Leopards' senior Andre Jones by using every offensive weapon in their arsenal.
McGonigal was 6 of 8 from the floor with a game-high three assists. Brandon Vanover, the Eagles' 7-0 senior center, was 7-of-10 shooting with 5 rebounds. Freshman guard Issac McBride came off the bench and hit his first 3 three-point attempts, finishing with 14 points. And then there was 7-3 sophomore Connor Vanover, who scored 10 points and was selected as the tournament's MVP.
The Eagles hit 25 of 44 shots, knocking down at least 50 percent of their shots in every quarter.
"That's something I think we've excelled at every game this year," McGonigal said. "We'll pass up a good shot for a great shot. ... That's something we pride ourselves on."
"It wasn't that we had good players, but it was the fact we were willing to wait for the best shot," Ross said. "We didn't rush stuff. It's just about getting the ball to the open guy."
Jones put up MVP-type numbers for Malvern (31-3). The UALR signee hit 11 of 18 shots, including 4 of 9 from three-point range. He also grabbed six rebounds and handed out two assists. But Jones and his teammates got no fast-break points against ball-savvy Baptist Prep.
"We never got into our transition game," Malvern Coach Chris Meseke said. "But ultimately, the game came down to them making shots. They've got 7-footers in there, but then they hit shots that really stretched our defense out. Give them credit. They hit shots. And that was the game right there. They hit threes."
Jordan Hughes, a 6-3 senior, added 10 points for Malvern.
The two teams traded leads five times in the opening quarter, but Baptist Prep never trailed again after McGonigal's layup with 1:18 to play in the first quarter.
Leading 10-9, Baptist Prep picked up its first three-pointer from McBride with 55 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
"He's one of those kids who is not just talented, but he has a knack for stepping up in the biggest of games," Ross said. "I pulled him aside right before we went on the floor, and I told him that he's always been a big-game player and that I expected him to play big tonight."
McGonigal hit two free throws with 2:42 left in the first half to push the Eagles' lead to 29-18, but Malvern finished the quarter by scoring eight consecutive points, the last of which came on a 21-footer by Jones.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Jones and junior guard Chase Goshien pulled Malvern to within 33-32 with 5:12 left in the third quarter, but Baptist Prep responded by hitting its next three shots to pull out to a 40-32 advantage.
In the fourth quarter, a 15-footer by Jones closed Baptist Prep's lead to 42-40, but another seven-point outburst by the Eagles sent the Leopards reeling. Malvern never was closer than six points the rest of the way.
"You can't sugarcoat it; it sucks," Meseke said. "There's no way around it. When you invest that much time and energy into something, emotionally it hurts when you come up short. But they were a better team than we were tonight."
Sports on 03/11/2016
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