No matter what it looked like, Mills' 45-40 victory over host Little Rock Parkview in Saturday's championship game of the Battle on Barrow was one Comets Coach Raymond Cooper wanted to savor.
"Any time that you win against Parkview, it's a good win," Cooper said. "Any time."
Especially when the game is played at Ripley Arena, and Parkview's first-year coach, Scotty Thurman, played for Nolan Richardson at the University of Arkansas.
"Nolan was a guy I really looked up to and I know Scotty played for him, and he knows about pressure defense," Cooper said. "We knew what to expect. Knowing what to expect and actually going and playing against it is two different things."
Both teams struggled to take care of the basketball, and the Comets were particularly sloppy in the first half, when they were outscored 15-8 in the second quarter and trailed 28-21 at halftime.
Mills trailed 36-31 after three quarters, but Cooper said he was pleased with the way the Comets were playing.
"We got some things figured out at halftime," Cooper said. "We've been having too many turnovers. They're extremely good defensive team. We're very similar in styles.
"At the end, we had so many guys in foul trouble we couldn't extend like we wanted to. We said, 'OK, we're going to take care of the basketball.' "
Limiting turnovers and getting the ball into the hands of Jakari Livingston were the keys for the Comets in the fourth quarter.
Livingston scored 14 of his game-high 17 points in the second half, and he accounted for 8 of Mills' 14 fourth-quarter points, many coming on drives down the lane.
"Jakari played real good for us," Cooper said. "He's got that kind of ability. We've been trying to get him to recognize it."
Thurman said it was easy to see that Mills had a go-to player when the going got tough late.
"We didn't play to the level we expect to play at," Thurman said. "I think we've got a bunch of guys who have never been in position to be counted on at this level. The lack of experience showed."
Darius Miller and Dexter White led the Patriots with eight points each.
Thurman said the Patriots are working hard to get better.
"Trying to see where guys fit," he said.
Cooper said he has no doubt Parkview will be a force down the road.
"We're real young, and they're real young, too," he said. "That's why the game looks like it does in some spots. I knew there would be some turnovers. They get after you. We get after you."
LR PARKVIEW 47,
LR CENTRAL 39
Parkview outscored Little Rock Central 15-3 over the final 6:06 to win the girls' championship game.
Parkview led 14-10 after one quarter and 24-22 at the half, but Central fought back behind Lauryn Pendleton, who led all scorers with 16 points.
Central outscored Parkview 12-8 in the third quarter to lead 34-32 going into the fourth and held a 36-32 lead before the Patriots rallied.
Tyra Robinson and Dynasty McGraw led Parkview with 12 points.
Sports on 12/01/2019