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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Berry very big for Lions

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

By anyone's standards, Quentin Berry is one big dude.

But in the eyes of the Mansfield Lions, the 6-7, 255-pound-plus Berry is probably bigger than Mount Everest.

The Lions' big senior post player had the game of his life March 1 in the championship game of the Class 2 District 9 Tournament at Mansfield High School.

Berry controlled things inside the paint, the Lions got off to a lightening-fast start and Mansfield toppled the number-one ranked Class 2 team in the state, the Thayer Bobcats, 58-53.

The loss was just the second setback of the year for Thayer, which finishes its season at 27-2, one step short of a trip to the sectional round.

For Mansfield (19-7),the victory gains the Lions access to the state tournament again, where they made it all the way to the finals last season before coming up short of the Class 2 title.

Thayer and Mansfield are no strangers to each other, having battled in the district tournament the past few years, along with a Nov. 30 meeting earlier this year.

The Cats won that matchup 41-38, largely because they contained Berry to just 10 points in the contest.

But in the championship game of the district tournament, Berry broke free for a game-high 29 points, and whenever Mansfield needed a big rebound, big hoop or big free throw, he was there to provide it.

The Lions led wire-to-wire in the game, including a 12-point advantage on a couple of occasions in the second half.

But the Bobcats, the number-one seed in the tournament, didn't climb all the way to the top of the Class 2 ranks by luck. They did it by hard work, and this hard work was on display late in the game.

Down by 10, 44-34, with five minutes left to play, the Cats started grinding.

Garrett Smith (nine points) hit a layup, and after a pair of free throws from Berry, Blake Horton struck for back-to-back hoops, the last one a 3-pointer, for Thayer. Horton paced the Bobcats with 23 points in the game.

Luke Martin (five points) chipped in with a hard-fought layup, and just like that, Thayer had went on a 9-2 run to edge within 46-43 with three-and-a-half minutes left.

But there was big Berry.

He hit a pair of free throws and then a layup to push Mansfield back in front 49-43.

Still, Thayer kept after Mansfield in the last minutes of the night by turning up the heat on defense and forcing the Lions into some late turnovers.

Michael Lowther hit a layup and Horton pulled the trigger on a 3-ball to keep Thayer within striking distance late.

But the Lions managed to stay in front.

Lance Schneider (12 points) jacked a 3-ball with eight ticks left that pulled the Cats within three, 56-53, but Colton Jones hit two free throws for Mansfield to seal the 58-53 win for the Lions.

The Bobcats just fell into too big of a hole early and were forced to use all their energy chasing the Lions' lead for the duration of the game.

Mansfield, fed by the energy of a racous home crowd, got things rolling early as Nathan Jones hit a 3-pointer for the first hoop of the game. Berry followed with a spinning move inside and then Colton Jones banked in a trey from the top of the key to give the Lions an 8-0 lead, just what they needed against Thayer.

Thayer did get some good looks at the basket over the course of the game, but shot-after-shot seemed to go in and then spin out, leaving the Cats with not much to show for those good looks.

Jacob Eckman hit the Bobcats' first bucket of the game at the 3:46 mark of the first, with Thayer trailing 10-3.

Schneider knocked down a triple and Horton added a layup late, pulling the Cats within six, 14-8, after three.

Thayer hung around and was behind by five, 23-17, at intermission.

But much like they did to open the game, the Lions began the third with three unanswered hoops, including a pair from Berry, to move in front 29-17.

Thayer's first hoop of the third came with 3:09 left in the frame, on a jumper by Horton that pulled his team within 10.

But Thayer just could not get much closer than 10 down until late in the fourth, as Berry started the fourth with Mansfield's first three hoops to keep the Lions on top.

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