There wouldn’t be a fourth.
Marion County got big play after big play down the stretch to hold off Parrish, and red-hot Tyler Sims, 68-67 in the Northwest Regional Championship game at Wallace State’s Tom Drake Coliseum.
The Red Raiders earned a spot in the Final Four with their first win over Parrish this season.
Marion County won despite Parrish junior Tyler Sims putting in 33 points. He connected on 13 of 17 field goals and 7 of 10 shots from 3-point range. He had the high-point total at the Northwest Regional this season.
Though the Tornadoes hit 66 percent of their shots on the day, the Red Raiders excelled at offensive rebounds, grabbing 23 boards, which ultimately led to 27 second-chance points and hurt Parrish throughout the game.
“We played very well offensively, but we didn’t do a good job on defense. I feel that I didn’t prepare our guys well enough defensively,” Parrish coach Heath Burns said. “The other three times we played Marion County we out-rebounded them and the battle of the boards is something that we’ve always focused on winning. Today, they got those boards and the second-chance shots that were too much for us to overcome.”
The one-two punch of Ready Swanigan and DeShawn Riebeshel combined for 47 points and 18 rebounds in the game.
No. 3 Parrish (28-2) led by a point going into the fourth quarter, but No. 8 Marion County grabbed the lead at 52-50 after a Sean Wallace score with 5:14 left. The Red Raiders didn’t trail again.
Parrish cut the lead to 57-54 later in the quarter, but Marion County’s Garrett Wates missed a free throw, got his own rebounds and made a layup to put the Raiders’ lead to 59-54. The Tornadoes stayed close thanks to 3-pointers from both Sims and Reginald Harris, who cut the gap to 63-62 with 32 seconds left.
One last miscue sealed Parrish’s fate. Following a missed Marion County free throw, the Tornadoes turned the ball over leading to a Riebeshel score for a 66-62 lead with 16 seconds left. Swanigan knocked down a pair of free throws with five seconds left to seal the win.
Sims closed the game with a 3-pointer to bring Parrish within one point at the buzzer.
Sims, who had struggled during the season with his 3-point shooting, said that he was able to find mental and physical focus that, along with the faith his teammates and coaches have in him, helped achieve the 33-point performance.
“My team and my coaches believe in me — it’s a blessing that I have them. When you have that belief, you go out and play for not only yourself, but for them as well,” Sims said. “To honor their belief in me, I try to go on the court and do my best for my team, myself and for our community.”
Burns was impressed by Sims’ outing.
“He was in the zone. He played as well as any player I’ve ever coached in a regional or Final Four game."
Reginald Harris scored 11 points for Parrish, while Hill had eight points and four blocked shots.
Desmond Brown had nine points and Jermichael Harris scored six.
A hotly-contested battle ensued in the first period, with five lead changes taking place between the two teams. Sims sank a basket with 25 seconds left in the period to allow Parrish to jump ahead 15-13.
Marion County tied-up the game by outscoring Parrish 17-15 in the second period, with both teams heading to the locker notched at 30-30 for the halftime break.
Sims continued to find the basket from beyond three-point range in the third period, giving the Tornadoes a narrow one-point lead, 47-46, going into the final quarter.
Despite the loss, Burns stated his optimism in team’s outlook for next year.
“The good news is that most of our starters are juniors, and we have a strong contingent of younger players who saw a lot of playing time who will be coming back for us next year,” Burns said. “We had a great season and we’ll look forward to getting back to work next year.”
Hill, Sims and Jermichael Harris were named to the Northwest Region All-Tournament team.