Hilltoppers hold off fast-closing Panthers

By Melissa Meador/Monroe Journal

HOUSTON – An Amory comeback came a minute too late Tuesday as Houston pulled out a 78-74 win to secure their spot in the Class 4A North tournament quarterfinals.
Amory (22-8) cut into what was a 20-point lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter to have a shot at the win, but Houston’s Caleb Morgan hit a pair of crucial free throws in the final 30 seconds to secure the win.
“We shouldn’t have let it get that close,” Houston coach Bruce Franks said. “We got in a hurry at times late in the game, but the kids never gave up on it.”
Houston (22-5) led by as many as nine in the first quarter before Amory scored five straight to open the second and pull within one. Chris Jones put in a basket right before halftime to give the Hilltoppers a 29-23 halftime lead.
Costly misses
Missed free throws by Amory and an 9-0 run near the beginning of the fourth helped Houston opened up a double-digit lead halfway through the third.
Another four points from Jones to open the fourth gave Houston a 60-40 lead.
Amory went on an 11-0 run after that with six of those points coming from Nick Beeks. A layup from Jaylon Fair brought the Panthers within six before Houston countered with another basket from Jones and the free throws from Morgan.
Dario Robinson hit a pair of 3-pointers for Amory at the end of the game, including one at the buzzer.
“We had shots open that didn’t fall early in the first half,” Amory coach Rob Browning said. “But I can’t be prouder of a team that will get down 20 points and just keep fighting until the last whistle.”
Robinson led all scorers with 29 points for Amory, while Jones led Houston with 24 points.
Houston will face defending 4A champion Amanda Elzy on Thursday night in the North quarterfinals at Corinth.
melissa.meador@journalinc.com