By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
BALDWYN – He’s only a freshman, but he comes through in the clutch like a former NBA veteran, Robert Horry.
Instead of “Big Shot Rob” knocking down a 3 at the buzzer to win Saturday night’s MHSAA Class 2A North championship game, it was Donta “Make ‘Em Pay” Armstrong providing the heroics for Bruce.
Armstrong banked home a 3-pointer from the left-hand side of the floor to give the Trojans (20-6) a wild, come-from-behind, 61-59 victory over its county rival, Calhoun City (23-11), on Saturday night.
“I wanted the ball in my hands,” Armstrong said about the game’s final seconds. “When we came out of the timeout, I told my big man Devin Tillman to put the ball in my hands.
“We were about to run a play, but we didn’t have enough time.”
So Tillman dumped it inside to his brother, Jarvis Tillman, who kicked it back out to Armstrong’s older brother, Demetris Evans. Evans then dished the rock to Armstrong.
“I was about to drive, but when I saw 4.3 seconds, I had to take the shot,” Armstrong said. “I thank God for the shot.”
For the record: He did not call glass.
“I thought my shot was way off,” Armstrong said of his game-winner. “By the way I shot it, I thought it was off.”
That game-winning 3 was his second such shot in a span of 48 hours. He drilled a 3 from the right-hand corner to give Bruce a last-second 60-57 North tourney quarterfinals victory over Williams Sullivan on Thursday night.
“When he had the ball out there (on the wing),” Bruce coach Davin Young said about the last few seconds of Saturday’s game, “I was thinking, ‘I hope he swings it on around and he gets it in there (inside), because I didn’t expect the shot to fall for a second time.
“I knew Devonta was sitting there thinking, ‘Hey, I’ll do it again.’ I just thought it was too good to be true.”
While Armstrong’s teammates carried him off the court after the game and he later exited his team’s locker room on the shoulders of his teammates for the second time since Thursday night, another difference maker in the second half of Saturday’s title game was clearly Jarvis Tillman.
After sitting most of the first half in foul trouble, Tillman scored 13 of his team-high 18 points in the final 16 minutes. His flush off a steal pulled the Trojans to within one, at 59-58, with 25.9 seconds left.
Demarius Howard, who played brilliantly and scored a team-high 19 points for the Wildcats, missed the front end of a one-and-one, and, after grabbing the rebound, Bruce then called a timeout with 18.9 seconds left.
“I wanted to drive, but I couldn’t,” Armstrong said about those final seconds. “I was blocked off, so I turned back around and I knew I had to shoot it.”
Armstrong finished with 10 points, while Devin Tillman added 11.
Taborris Coffey tallied 15 for the Wildcats.
Since the Trojans won the North tournament, they will play Richton in Saturday’s Class 2A state semifinal, scheduled for 2:30 at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson. In the other matchup, Calhoun City will play Piney Woods, which beat Richton 79-44 for the South title, at 8 p.m. on Saturday.
“We can play with any team and we can beat any team if we put our minds to it,” said Armstrong, whose team improved to 2-3 in games against Calhoun City this season.
n Game summary, Page 2B