Wallace sinks jumper, Pickens at buzzer
LINDEN — Using only six players and a last-second, turnaround jumper by junior guard Matt Wallace, the No. 10 ranked Longhorns (7-3, 4-0) defeated Pickens 48-47 Monday night.
Pickens Academy took the lead on the opening bucket of the second quarter and never trailed again before the Wallace buzzer beater ended the game.
“It was actually supposed to go to Chase Smyly,” Marengo Academy head coach Eddie Edwards said of the final shot of the game. “But they double-teamed him and left Matt open and he made a good decision.”
The Longhorns took over the final possession when a Pickens shot clanked off the iron with just under 30 seconds to go. Wood Collins grabbed the rebound and charged down the floor before eventually dishing the ball out to Wallace.
“I was trying to waste as much clock as I could, trying to get an open look,” Wallace said of his approach after realizing that Smyly was well-covered. “I was going to get it and try to improvise, get a pick or something.”
Wallace brought the ball from his left around the top of the key, stepped to just inside the free throw line, pivoted on his left foot, spun back to his right and put up the jumper that rattled around on the rim before falling through as the final tenths of a second ran off the clock and the buzzer sounded.
“It was great,” Wallace said. “It was a good win. We only have (six) players because we had some people miss practice. But we did what we had to and came away with a win.”
While Wallace put up the game-winner and tied with Smyly for a team high 13 points, Edwards looked at scarcely-utilized forward Matthew Cannon as the difference in the game.
“Matt Wallace and Chase Smyly are our go-to guys. We want it in their hands as much as possible. (But) Matthew Cannon was the key to us winning tonight,” Edwards said. “The kid played the game of his life.”
Most commonly used a reserve, Cannon was thrust into a starting role Monday, scoring eight points, grabbing six rebounds and blocking one shot despite picking up his third foul early in the second quarter and being forced to watch the remainder of the first half.
“We knew he was going to put up big because he’s a tough player,” Wallace said of Cannon’s effort.
The Longhorns trailed by five at the start of the fourth quarter, embarking on a 13-7 run during the game’s final period. The win came despite the Longhorns committing 15 turnovers in the contest.
“Three guys never came off the floor. It’s huge. You’ve got to go all the way back to last year. We lost five starters off the team that went all the way to the playoffs. So we were basically starting with a brand new team,” Edwards said. “It was big for us to be able to come back and win this first game after the holidays and for it to be a home game. You have to win your home games. You never know what is going to happen on the road.”
Pickens guard Jacob Acker led all scorers with 18 while Greg Hankins added 17. Smyly added 12 rebounds, four blocks and a steal to his 13 points to help the Longhorn effort. Wallace’s stat sheet included four boards, three assists and three steals. Chris Sammons and Wood Collins each finished with seven points for MA.