HOT SPRINGS -- Jonesboro evened the season series against West Memphis on Saturday afternoon.
However, it was the most important meeting between the Hurricane and Blue Devils, which the Hurricane won 55-49 in the Class 6A boys state championship game at Bank of the Ozarks Arena.
Saturday's victory marked the second consecutive state championship for the Hurricane (26-5) and 13th overall.
Jonesboro, which lost its two regular-season meetings against West Memphis, defeated the Blue Devils in the 6A-East Conference Tournament championship game Feb. 24 and knocked them off in Saturday's state championship.
"It was 2-2, but they won the most important ones that mattered," West Memphis Coach Marcus Brown said.
Senior guards Tony Hutson and Desi Sills combined for 39 points for the Hurricane. Hutson finished with a game-high 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting and made 4 three-pointers. Sills, who has signed with the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, had 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting and picked up 3 steals.
"It's obviously fun to coach [Hutson and Sills]," Jonesboro Coach Wes Swift said. "Tony and Desi are both special, special players."
In his first season as the Blue Devils' coach, Brown was impressed with Hutson and Sills.
"They're two terrific guards," Brown said. "Once you get them downhill, it's difficult to stop them."
Hutson, Sills and classmate Blayton Williams scored 51 of Jonesboro's 55 points. Williams added 12 points along with 7 rebounds and 2 steals.
The Hurricane shot 47.6 percent (20 of 42) from the floor and held the Blue Devils to 35.3 percent (18 of 51).
"I'm not so sure that wasn't our best defensive effort of the season," Swift said.
Senior forward Zachary Byrd led the Blue Devils (29-4) with 20 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore forward Chris Moore grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds for West Memphis, which outrebounded Jonesboro 38-27 and had 16 offensive boards.
West Memphis led 29-16 with 1:52 left in the second quarter, but Jonesboro closed the first half on an 11-2 run to cut the lead to 31-27 by halftime. Hutson scored all 11 Jonesboro points during the run, which included two three-pointers, a three-point play and two free throws.
"Tony did a great job of leading us into half. He really took over the game," Swift said. "Emotionally, we felt like it was tied."
Jonesboro took its first lead since the 3:35 mark of the first quarter when Hutson hit a three-pointer with 3:59 left in the third quarter to make it 36-35. Hutson's shot started Jonesboro's 11-0 run that gave it a 44-35 lead, and the Hurricane entered the fourth quarter with a 44-38 advantage.
"The third quarter is what separates championship teams from the good teams," Swift said.
The Hurricane extended the lead to 49-41 with 6:29 to play on Sills' layup. But the Blue Devils pulled within 49-47 with 4:07 remaining on Byrd's layup.
West Memphis did not convert another field goal, missing its final six shots, and was 2 of 7 from the free-throw line.
"We missed the front end of two one-and-one's," Brown said. "We didn't execute down the stretch. All that is on me. I have to help them execute better."
Jonesboro was 32-0 in 2016-2017. The Hurricane lost five times in 2017-2018, but the end result was the same as 2017: Holding the Class 6A state championship trophy in the Spa City.
"Everybody was doubting us," Sills said. "They didn't think we were going to make it back to the state championship game. We proved everybody wrong. We all came together."
Sports on 03/11/2018
Print Headline: Boys earn most satisfying of splits