Mills wasn't as sharp as it had been in its previous games of the Jammin' for Jackets Tournament, but the Comets were still good enough to walk away with the championship on Saturday.
Behind 16 points from senior guard Grehlon Easter, Mills pulled away down the stretch to knock off host Little Rock Hall 61-44 in the finals at Cirks Arena.
Junior guard Branton McCrary added 12 points and junior guard Orion Virden had 9 on 3 three-pointers for Mills (8-2), which used hot shooting to advance through the first two rounds of the tournament but leaned on its defense to slow down the Warriors in a physical and hotly contested title game.
"It was tough, and we knew it would be," Mills Coach Raymond Cooper said. "Hall is another program with great tradition. And then, this place is a tough place to win at.
"But we had to grind it out. We didn't shoot it as well as we have, but we were solid on the defensive end, and that helped us tremendously."
The Comets shot 44 percent (19 of 43) for the game, which was well off the 60-percent pace they set over their previous two games, but Mills forced Hall into 17 turnovers and got several baskets off second-chance opportunities to pull away.
Junior forward Greg Johnson had 20 points to lead Hall (6-2), which never led but kept pace with the Comets before ultimately yielding to Mills' pressure late in the second half. The Warriors finished 14 of 42 (33 percent) from the floor but did outrebound the Comets 30-23.
"It was a physical game for us," Hall Coach Jon Coleman said. "Coming in, we wanted to make sure they didn't get a lot of easy buckets in transition, and we didn't want to get out-toughed. For the most part, we did that.
"But as a team, we've got to be able to adjust to the way the game is being officiated. We didn't do a good enough job of boxing out, which allowed them to get some easy stick backs. And that hurt us at critical moments."
Mills scored the game's first seven points and led 24-12 following McCrary's lay-up with 6:16 left in the first half. Hall got two free throws from junior forward Kevon Cooper and a basket from junior guard Montavious Dismuke to get within 10 before the Comets scored seven of the next nine points to take a 31-18 lead into halftime.
Easter, who won Most Valuable Player honors, nailed a leaning 18-footer to give Mills a 36-20 advantage early in the second half. The Comets continued to keep the pressure on Hall while never allowing the Warriors to get clean looks from the outside. Hall got within 45-36 on Johnson's short jumper with 5:21 left in the game, but two free throws each from Easter and McCrary over the next two possessions gave the Comets enough of a cushion to keep the Warriors at bay. Mills later used a 7-0 run, highlighted by a three-pointer from Virden, to salt away the victory.
"[Coach Coleman] had a good game plan, so we had to do things a little differently," Cooper said. "Hall took away our transition so it was a slow-it-down, half-court type of a game at times. But we've got to learn to win those kinds of games, and we were able to do that.
McCrary 5 2-2 12, Ford 0 0-0 0, Easter 4 8-8 16, Greene 1 2-2 4, Virden 3 0-0 9, Clark 0 1-2 1, Peaster 2 0-0 4, Jefferson 0 0-0 0, Hinton 0 0-0 0, Smith 0 0-0 0, Cross 2 3-5 7, Wright 0 0-0 0, K. Jones 2 3-4 8, T. Jones 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 19-23 61.
Madison 0 0-0 0, Cooper 2 3-4 7, Loring 0 0-0 0, Smith 2 0-0 4, Johnson 5 10-11 20, Miller 0 0-0 0, Peterson 2 0-0 4, Dismuke 1 2-2 4, Coleman 2 0-1 4, Sessions 0 0-0 0, Summons 0 1-2 1. Totals 14 16-20 44.
Halftime -- Mills 31, Hall 18. Three-point goals -- Mills 4 (Virden 3, K. Jones). Team fouls -- Mills 23, Hall 23. Fouled out -- Madison.
LITTLE ROCK PARKVIEW 74,
Junior forward Airion Simmons scored a game-high 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds as the Patriots used an 18-3 run midway through the second half to erase an eight-point deficit and beat the Hornets in the third-place game.
Senior center Ethan Henderson scored 16 points and junior guards C.J. White and Allan Flanigan had 12 and 10 points, respectively for the Patriots (6-2), who trailed 59-51 with 7:01 left before taking off on a 12-0 run to grab a 63-59 advantage.
Bryant freshman guard Camren Hunter nailed a three-pointer to pull the Hornets to within one, but back-to-back baskets by Flanigan and senior guard Rod Terry gave Parkview the momentum it needed to hold on.
The Patriots finished 29-of-54 shooting but turned the ball over 16 times compared to just 11 for Bryant.
Sophomore guard Khalen Robinson had 18 points for Bryant (5-2), which was outrebounded 29-13 but shot 51 percent (22 of 43) from the floor. Senior forward Deron Canada added 17 points while Hunter finished with 16.
Sports on 12/10/2017
Print Headline: Comets cool off but still win title