Playing three games in a four-day span, including a stretch which featured back-to-back affairs, is a challenge unto itself. However, adding an overtime session to the mix added a bigger obstacle to an already daunting task.
Nevertheless, the host Jaguars proved they were more than willing to rise to occasion by winning the New Manchester Holiday Classic championship game after beating Kennesaw Mountain 59-57 in OT on Tuesday.
“Kennesaw Mountain is a very good team and they’re well coached. We knew this would go down to the wire. Our team believes in each other and they trust each other,” said first-year head coach James Bailey. “I inherited this tournament. This means a lot and I’m glad we were able to win. I’m proud of everybody on the team for playing so hard.”
New Manchester secured the victory in dramatic fashion following a late bucket by Kyle Parker and a blocked shot on the other end by Tabashi Thomas as time expired.
“This took a lot of effort and hard work. This is very special. I just played help defense and went up for the block,” said Thomas.
While the outcome went down to the final seconds, early on, it appeared as if it would be a runaway triumph for New Manchester.
The Jags sprinted out of the gate with a 20-6 lead at the end of the first quarter. However, this huge advantage was short-lived as Kennesaw Mountain began to chip away and trailed 31-21 at the half.
Although New Manchester opened the fourth quarter leading 40-35, Kennesaw Mountain was playing with a lot of confidence. The Mustangs’ surge reached its summit when they took their first lead of the game, going up 41-40 with 5:00 left on the clock.
For the remainder of the quarter, the teams went back-and- forth, missing out on several opportunities down the stretch which led to the overtime session.
Fatigue played a major role in overtime as both schools clanked critical free throws off the iron. Fortunately for the Jags, the game was decided on a close-range jumper and superb defensive play.
Tabashi Thomas led New Manchester with 13 points. Tyler Thomas poured in 12 points on the night. Clinton Bentley III finished the game with 10 points.
Kennesaw Mountain’s Nigel Hayes led all scorers with 21 points.
During the three game run in the tourney, the Jags averaged 67 points. Bentley was the top sharpshooter of the club, averaging 15 points per game.
The Jaguars opened the tourney by beating Carver-Atlanta 77-29 in first-round action of the third annual New Manchester Holiday Classic on Saturday.
New Manchester wasted little time jumping out on Carver.
“I’m very pleased with our guys’ effort,” Bailey said after the first game. “They played together as a unit and that’s one of the main things we’ve been stressing to them. I want them to get the understanding that this is our house. We have to start setting the standard, especially at home. You have to hold your own at home.”
The Jags were on fire from the opening tip, beginning the game on a 7-0 run. New Manchester would go on to lead 20-9 at the end of the first quarter. Carver was held in single digits until just over six minutes remaining on the clock in the second quarter, but by this point, it was already evident which school had the superior squad on the floor.
The holiday jollies continued for New Manchester with Carver scoring a mere two points on a pair for foul shots in the third quarter.
New Manchester played perhaps its most well-rounded game of the season from a scoring standpoint. A host of Jags filled the box score with impressive stats.
Clinton Bentley III led all scorers with 19 points. Aaron Reddick was next on the list with 16 points. Tyler Edwards followed up by dropping 13 points.
Following Saturday’s lopsided victory over lowly Carver-Atlanta, New Manchester returned to the floor