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Ealy carries Hutchcraft to 10th crown

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Photographs by Stephen B. Thornton

Guy-Perkins Jahcoree Ealy (21) bowls over and fouls Shirley’s Michael Fuller in a drive to the basket in the Thunderbirds’ 67-57 victory. More photos available at arkansasonline.com/galleries

HOT SPRINGS -- For the first time in eight years, Guy-Perkins is on top of Class 1A.

Guy-Perkins MVP Jahcoree Ealy lofts a shot against Shirley in Saturday’s game at Bank of the Ozarks Arena in Hot Springs.

Senior guard Jahcoree Ealy scored 25 points and the Thunderbirds defeated Shirley 67-57 on Saturday in front of 5,363 at Bank of the Ozarks Arena.

It's the first state title for Guy-Perkins (37-4) since 2009 and fifth overall. The Thunderbirds also won titles in 1997, 2005 and 2006, all under Coach John Hutchcraft.

"I'm only probably going to coach another year or two," Hutchcraft said. "I've been down here 18 times and was 9-9. This one puts me over the top. So that really makes it big.

"I've had some good groups. This is one of my really outstanding groups that are just good young players who act good, play good and show good sportsmanship. That makes it even better when you have a group of kids like this."

Ealy scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half. He also had 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocked shots.

"Coach gave me a good pep talk," Ealy said. "He told me I needed to step it up. This was my last one. I needed to leave everything out on the court. I just did what he told me."

Junior guard Trey Minton had 16 points and seven rebounds for the Thunderbirds, and senior forward Josh Bullard and junior post Wyatt Spires each scored 12 points. Spires had a game-high 16 rebounds as Guy-Perkins outrebounded Shirley 46-33, including 18 offensive boards.

The Thunderbirds defeated the Blue Devils in three of four meetings this season.

"Congrats to Guy-Perkins," Shirley Coach Keith Brown said. "They did a great job. They earned it today. But I wouldn't trade dressing rooms right now. They took me on one heck of a ride."

Guy-Perkins trailed 29-28 at halftime but took a 43-33 lead with 3:30 left in the third quarter on Minton's three-pointer.

The Thunderbirds led 43-38 entering the fourth quarter, but Shirley cut the lead to 46-44 with 5:18 to play before Guy-Perkins went to Ealy.

Ealy converted a three-point play, and his finger-roll layup extended the Thunderbirds' lead to 51-44 with 4:50 remaining.

"That was a turning point," Hutchcraft said. "I'm very proud of Jahcoree."

Guy-Perkins held off Shirley by finishing 15 of 21 at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.

Shirley (34-11) took a 6-0 lead early in the first quarter before Guy-Perkins went on an 11-0 run to go ahead 11-6. Spires' tip-in at the buzzer gave the Thunderbirds a 15-13 lead entering the second quarter.

The Thunderbirds led 23-19 with 4:06 to play in the first half, but Shirley went into halftime with the lead. To end the first half, senior guard Sam Spurlin threw an inbounds pass to forward Jed Privitt, whose jumper gave Shirley a 29-28 lead at halftime.

Shirley, with a population of 223 as of the 2010 U.S. Census, was playing in its first state championship game. Privitt was one of seven seniors for the Blue Devils this season, and he was proud of his team's run to the Class 1A state championship game.

"It was very special for us to be here today to represent Shirley and Van Buren County," Privitt said. "It was unbelievable."

Senior guard Joseph Owen and junior forward Michael Fuller each scored 14 points to lead the Blue Devils. Privitt had 13 points and 10 rebounds while senior guard Easton Freeman added 12 points.

MVP

JAHCOREE EALY

GUY-PERKINS

The senior guard scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half. He made 7 of 24 shots, including a three-pointer. Ealy also had 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocked shots.

And ones

Guy-Perkins won its fifth state title and first since 2009. … Shirley was making its first state championship game appearance. … The Thunderbirds defeated the Blue Devils three out of four times this season. … Guy-Perkins won 23 consecutive games to finish the season.

— Jeremy Muck

Quotable

“It’s the GP way.”

—Guy-Perkins senior forward Josh Bullard on being part of the Thunderbirds’ fifth state championship team

Sports on 03/12/2017

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