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By CHARLES RICHARDS
PARIS – Mike Harmon scored 21 points, including 11 points in a crucial three-minute span of the second half, and Paris Junior College defeated Trinity Valley Community College 65-61 Wednesday night.
Paris improved to 11-12 overall and 5-7 in Region 14 play. Trinity Valley fell to 14-8 and 5-6.
Octavius Ellis led TVCC’s Cardinals with 17 points, including 9-of-9 at the free throw line.
Anthony Adams, with 12 points, was the only other Paris player in double figures.
The Dragons led 29-22 at the half, but Trinity Valley went on a 21-4 run over the first 6:30 of the second half to lead 43-33.
The last two points of that came on two free throws on a technical foul on Paris coach Chuck Taylor when he charged onto the court to protest a non-foul call against forward Eddie Leal, who took a spill during a rebound.
It fired up the Dragons, who scored 19 of the next 26 points, including two 3-pointers and a third 3-point play the old fashioned way – a goal followed by a free throw.
PJC moved into a 50-50 tie on two free throws by Chris Jones with 8:24 to play. Adams scored twice and Jones added two more free throws for a 56-51 Paris lead, and the Dragons led the rest of the way.
But victory didn’t come without some nail-biting over the last couple of minutes.
With 1:41 to play, Paris led 61-55, but Ellis, a 6-10, 210-pound freshman, drew a foul on a rebound and cashed both his free throws to pull the Cardinals to within 61-57.
Paris broke Trinity Valley’s full-court press and Antonio Arnold went to the free throw line with 1:35 remaining. He made his second free throw, and Paris’ lead was 62-57.
Trinity Valley coach Kris Baumann called a timeout to diagram a play, but Paris’ defense was unyielding, and he called a second timeout. Back on the court, the shot clock was within two seconds of going off when Trinity Valley’s Tyler Corley fumbled the ball and Leal was called for a foul.
Corley made both his free throws to cut Paris’ lead to 62-59 with one minute to play. The Dragons broke Trinity Valley’s full-court press and ran the clock down to 26 seconds before Paris forward Morris Mitchell went up for a shot under the goal.
A Trinity Valley player was there to swat the ball away – one of several blocks by the taller Cardinals during the night.
Trinity Valley came downcourt trailing by three points, and Josh Gentry drove for a basket – basically uncontested since Paris didn’t want to risk a foul that might let the Cardinals tie the game.
Now it was a one-point game at 62-61 with still 20 seconds on the clock.
The inbounds pass came to Adams, and Trinity Valley pressed but refused to foul him. Incredibly, as Adams sought to dribble away the remaining time, 6-5 sophomore forward Tra Parker came up from Adams’ blind side and knocked the ball away.
Only eight seconds left in the game, but Trinity Valley has the ball, trailing by 62-61. Right away, Ellis had the ball, and he headed for the basket. Five times already, he had been fouled after muscling his way underneath. He turned those five trips to the free throw line into nine free throws with no misses.
Up went Ellis, but the ball was short, and there was no whistle despite the protests from the Trinity Valley bench. Adams came down with the ball and then was fouled with only one second left in the game.
Jarion Henry was livid and drew a technical foul for his protest. Leal’s two free throws on the technical made the score 64-61, and Adams then made one of his two free throws to make the final score 65-61.
In his post-game interview, the Paris coach said he liked his team’s effort.
“I know we’re just 2-2 in our last four games, but we have played four good teams over that time,” Taylor said. The Dragons beat Kilgore and Trinity Valley and lost to Navarro and Tyler. All four were close games that could have gone either way.
“Mike Harmon came out and besides his scoring, he came down with a big rebound late, and we got good contributions from a bunch of players,” Taylor said.
“It’s a win, and we’ll take it. I think this pretty well puts us in the tournament,” he said, referring to the conference format that sends the top 12 teams in the 14-team league to the post-season tournament March 6-10 at UT-Tyler.
In other league games Wednesday, Navarro defeated Kilgore 69-59, Tyler beat Bossier Parish 60-54, Lee defeated Lamar State-Port Arthur 97-80, and San Jacinto knocked off Blinn 85-80.
That leaves Navarro with a big lead in the race for the No. 1 seed in the regional tournament and the automatic berth in the national tournament.
Navarro is 10-1, and Tyler now has Region 14’s second-best record at 8-3 followed by Kilgore at 8-4, with Angelina, San Jacinto and Lee a half game back at 7-4.
In the race not to have one of the two worst records, Panola is now 0-11, Bossier 1-10 and Blinn 3-9. Paris is 5-7, and both Trinity Valley and Coastal Bend are 5-6.
Paris is at Panola on Saturday, finishing off the first half of the North Zone’s round robin play.
TRINITY VALLEY 22-39—61
Trinity Valley (14-8, 5-6) – Octavius Ellis 4 0 9-9 17, Tyler Corley 1 0 1-2 3, Carl Porter 1 0 2-2 4, Josh Gentry 1 0 0-0 2, Tra Parker 3 1 0-0 7, Tim Allen 2 1 2-2 7, Jarion Henry 1 0 6-8 8, Elbert Jordan 1 1 0-0 3, Mike Miller 2 0 0-0 4, JhaustinThomas 3 0 0-0 6.Totals: 19 3 20-23 61. Fouls: 18. Fouled Out: Henry. Technical Foul: Henry.
Paris (11-12, 5-7) – Antonio Arnold 2 0 1-2 5, Mike Harmon 8 3 2-3 21, Anthony Adams 5 0 2-4 12, Chris Jones 0 0 4-6 4, David Tucker 2 1 0-0 5, Delvin Dickerson 1 0 0-0 2, Eddie Leal 2 0 2-2 6, Lamar Walker 1 0 0-0 2, Sheldon Yearwood 0 0-2 0, Morris Mitchell 2 0 2-3 6, Will Ransom 1 0 0-1 2. Totals: 24 4 13-23 65. Fouls: 17. Fouled Out: None. Technical Foul: Coach Chuck Taylor.