Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Boys basketball 5A Region I: Resilient South Grand Prairie rallies past Hebron, 35-33, punches state ticket
FORT WORTH — After a 38-year absence, South Grand Prairie is returning to the UIL state boys basketball tournament.
South Grand Prairie rallied from a nine-point deficit in the third quarter to defeat Hebron, 35-33, in the Class 5A Region I championship game Saturday at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center.
“My guys are so resilient,” South Grand Prairie coach Brandon Bennett said. “They just don’t quit.”
South Grand Prairie (36-3), ranked No. 4 in the final state poll, led for only two of the 32 minutes. A free throw by Virginia Tech signee Ben Emelogu with 1:10 remaining put the Warriors on top 34-33, their first lead since the game’s opening minute.
Another South Grand Prairie free throw by Trey Hall with 21 seconds on the clock increased the advantage to two.
Hebron (36-3), No. 2 in the state, went scoreless in the final six minutes but had a chance to win on senior point guard Ridge Shipley’s 3-pointer from right of the key with five seconds remaining. The shot by the Cal Poly signee caught a lot of the rim before agonizingly spinning out.
“I hadn’t made many shots, but I was hoping to pull a Michael Jordan and win the game for my team right there,” Shipley said. “We had the perfect play called. The shot was just a little bit short.”
Hebron coach Mark Bishop said Shipley was the right guy for the winning shot.
“He’s been doing it for us all year,” said Bishop, “and he had a good look.”
Said South Grand Prairie’s Bennett: “I was thinking ‘Please don’t go in.’ And I thought back to last year. You have to get some breaks in a game like this.”
A season ago, South Grand Prairie had an unsuccessful last shot when it lost the Region I title game on the same floor to eventual state champion Flower Mound Marcus, 39-38.
“All of our guys that went through it remember the pain of last year,” said Emelogu, who led the third-period comeback and finished with a game-high 13 points. “Ridge is a great player. I’ve known him since the fourth grade. We were lucky at the end.”
Emelogu’s backcourt mate Mark Howell scored six of his 10 points in the second half.
Hebron, winners of 34 straight coming in, connected on five 3-pointers in the first half and led by as many as 11 before settling for a 23-16 halftime advantage. But in the second half, Hebron went 5-for-15 from the field with seven turnovers.
“They turned the pressure up in the third quarter and made it harder for us to get down the floor,” Bishop said.
Senior guard Jeff Hicks and junior post Connor McClenaghan led Hebron with eight points apiece.
The only previous state tournament appearance for South Grand Prairie came in 1975 when it lost to Lamesa in the Class 3A final.