A-J's Parr "shoots birdie"
Senior hits game winner with :03.1 left, club tops Redbirds, 59-57
NORRIS CITY – It has been a great last few days for Anna-Jonesboro head basketball Mike Chamness.

After his wife gave birth to a new baby boy last Friday just hours before his Wildcats' team finished the season with a “Senior Night” win without him, things were looking great for his 21-8 club heading into the 2A Johnston City Regional, of which A-J was the seeding favorite.

But Tuesday night nearly became a nightmare for this coach and his senior led team.

With just seconds remaining in their contest against West Frankfort, the Wildcats saw the Redbirds rally from 10-points down in the fourth quarter to take a 57-56 lead.

But Coach Chamness and his Wildcats knew what to do when it came down to the final play to try and get the win.

Get the ball to senior forward Jake Parr.

Getting the ball back on an offensive rebound after a missed West Frankfort free throw, A-J got a timeout in the front court with :06.4 remaining.

Setting up a play in the huddle, everyone in the building knew who Coach Chamness wanted to get the ball to.

Parr had 22-points already and he has been the Wildcats “go-to” all season.

You can insert your own cliché here but ABV will go with “You've gotta dance with the one that brought you.”

Getting the ball to Parr on the inbounds play, the 6-foot-2 senior made a spin move from the right side of the lane and his short shot from just outside of the paint banked home while he was being fouled by West Frankfort's Kyle Hammers with :03.1 left.

Parr calmly finished the conventional three-point play to give Anna-Jonesboro a 59-57 win.

The Redbirds managed to get a long 3-point attempt off before the buzzer but junior C.J. Johnson's 40-footer was well short, a miss that allowed the Wildcats to advance to Friday night's regional title game.

“I think any other year we would have freaked out (late losing the lead) but this year we have been in these situations before and we have five seniors and we play nine guys and all of them played last year,” said Coach Chamness. “We actually talked about that in the huddle. I told them that we are built for games like this. In six-point games or less this year, we are 9-2.”

Anna-Jonesboro has a shot to win the program's first regional title since 2004 this Friday night.

Coach Chamness should remember that regional title team well. He was a starting guard on the 21-11 club that advanced to the Class A Sparta Sectional.

For Parr it was just a matter of knocking down the shot.

“It was a great pass from my teammate Sheldon McGrath. I got it and pump faked and I saw Hammers slide by and give me a little bit of space. I just shot it. I went for the bank and they called the foul,” said Jake Parr. “It went in. I can't believe it. The ball was meant to get into my hands for either a three or a drive. Sheldon gave me a nice pass to get to the rim or get close to the basket. This was my first shot with the game on the line.”

After having defeated the Redbirds three previous times this season, win number four nearly didn't happen.

The Wildcats squandered a 50-40 lead and were nearly sent home with a crushing defeat.

Coach Kevin Toney's West Frankfort team nearly pulled the shocker as his team played well in retrospect.

However after picking up an opening round win over Vienna on Monday night, West Frankfort ended its 2017-18 campaign at 6-22.

“Everybody in the gym knew Parr was going to catch it and I thought we did a pretty good job on him, not only in the game but on that play,” said Coach Toney. “Congratulations to A-J. It's not like we beat by somebody who is not very good. We got beat by a deep, very skilled, well coached basketball team. And on that last play, it's kind of like Bob Gibson's slider. Everyone knew it was coming but you still can't hit it. When knew who was going to catch it and we knew what he was going to do. That is just a credit to them.”

Parr topped all scorers with 25-points and eight-rebounds while two other teammates, Sheldon McGrath and Noah McFarland added 11 and 10-points respectively.

The 'Birds didn't play like a 6-22 team on Tuesday night, ask anyone in the stands who was wearing Blue and White A-J colors.

West Frankfort got 20-points from Johnson to go with his nine-rebounds on the night.

Five-foot-nine senior point guard Lucas Wolfe tossed in 12-points for Coach Toney's team that was just seconds away from an upset victory.

Sophomore forward Kyle Melvin added nine-points to the totals for WF.

West Frankfort rallied late in the game as they only had a couple of early leads before the fourth quarter comeback.

Johnson, Wolfe and Melvin all contributed early for WF, getting the Redbirds a 10-9 lead after one quarter of play.

Anna-Jonesboro went on its first big run of the contest in the second quarter as Parr scored twice inside and teammates Zimmerman, McGrath and senior guard Ross Pinnon netted points to give A-J a 23-14 advantage.

Behind Johnson, who hit a pair of 3-point bombs in the second stanza, West Frankfort cut the A-J lead to just 30-26 at the half.

Coach Chamness saw his team open the third quarter with a quick run.

Six-consecutive points from the Wildcats gave them a 36-26 spread with 6:48 left in the third.

But a 10-0 flight by the Redbirds evened the score once again.

Wolfe hit a 3-pointer from the right wing and 6-foot-5 senior Keagan Thrash converted on a drive while being fouled, which turned into an “And-1.”

Kyle Hammers converted a transition chance to make it 36-all.

A-J got another scoring sprint to take a 48-40 lead heading to the final quarter with Parr muscling in for a couple of different scores, one that turned into a three-point play.

Sophomore guard Blake Pena got open on a back door cut to the basket to close the run.

A bucket in transition by Wolfe sent the teams to the final frame.

“I was really proud of our effort, I think we were down 10 at one point, it kind of crystallizes what this season has been all about. Some rocky roads, some bumps in the road but our kids hung in there,”said Coach Toney.

A McFarland score in the paint opened the fourth quarter as it appeared A-J was set to put this game in the win column.

But there wasn't any quit in this West Frankfort team.

Melvin and Johnson both hit shots, with Johnson hitting the first of two big 3-point baskets in the fourth.

When he nailed the second, West Frankfort had tied the game at 53-53.

Pena, who had missed a wide-open 3-pointer earlier in the fourth quarter from the right corner in front of the A-J bench, found himself open from the same spot minutes later.

This time the sophomore canned the 20-footer for a 56-53 lead.

The Redbirds got the lead back and put pressure on A-J with Hammers making a key steal near mid-court and then racing to the basket for a lay in.

Sophomore point guard Gavin Gaylor, who had zero points before getting fouled with :46.3 remaining, calmly converted two huge free throws to give WF a 57-56 lead.

A-J had a chance to get the lead back moments later, but Parr misfired on a driving shot and West Frankfort got the ball back.

The Wildcats had fouls to give and eventually got Hammers to the line with just :12.4 left.

Fortunately for A-J, Hammers missed the front end of a “one-and-one” and Pena grabbed the all-important rebound.

The Wildcats quickly got the ball into the frontcourt to Parr who called a timeout in front of Coach Chamness to set up the final play.

Coming out of the timeout, Coach Toney saw what A-J was lined up for and then took a timeout.

Once A-J inbounded the ball, Parr took care of the rest as his shot sent his team into the regional finale on Friday.

“We were up twice tonight by 10 and by nine one other time but they (West Frankfort) just kept coming back,” said Coach Chamness. “They got the lead back there late and we were able to foul Hammers. We knew he was 0-5 last night from the line and he was the one we wanted to foul. We told the guys that if we have to foul somebody that he was the guy. We were thankful that he missed the 'one-and-one' and we came down here and were able to draw up a play that we have practiced for that situation. We got it to Jake and he made the play. We wanted to put the game on his shoulders.”

The 22-8 club will face either conference nemesis Du Quoin or Chester on Friday night.

The Wildcats have beaten Du Quoin twice this season and they also have a win over the Yellow Jackets on the road.

“I don't care who you are, it is tough to beat a team four times,” said Coach Chamness. “As coaches we had that in the back of our minds that we hope that we (team) just don't show up. They (West Frankfort) played well and played extremely hard. We were lucky to get out of here with a win.”

West Frankfort
West Frankfort (57) – Wolfe 1 3 1-2 12, Russell 0 0 0-0 0, Johnson 4 4 0-0 20, Hammers 4 0 0-1 8, Gaylor 0 0 2-2 2, Thrash 1 1 1-1 6, Melvin 4 0 1-2 9.
2FG-14, 3FG-8, FT-5-8, PF-15.

Anna-Jonesboro (59) – T. Smith 0 0 0-0 0, Pinnon 0 1 0-0 3, McGrath 4 1 0-2 11, Pena 1 1 0-0 5, Zimmerman 0 1 0-0 3, N. Smith 0 0 0-0 0, Parr 9 1 4-6 25, McFarland 3 0 4-6 10, Sawyer 1 0 0-0 2.
2FG-18, 3FG-5, FT-8-14, PF-9.

Fouled Out – None.
Technical Fouls – None.