LOGAN - Last year at this time, the Ripley Middle School Basketball Team was shaking off the disappointment of falling in the championship game to the Generals of Winfield.
This season, Ripley took down Ravenswood and No. 1 seeded Winfield on their way to face Logan Middle School in the same scenario, the game for all the conference marbles.
During the regular season, The Vikes fell to the Logan Middle Wildcats twice. They were defeated by 10 points at Logan and two points at Ripley.
On Thursday night in Logan, the Vikings got the win when it counted by taking down the Wildcats in overtime, 38-34 to bring the Mid Valley Athletic Conference Basketball Championship home to Jackson County.
Ripley shooting guard Jamison Hunt did what he does best; blister the net in crunch time. Hunt sank a text book 3-pointer with 30 seconds left to knot the game at 32. After a missed shot from Logan standout Braxton Goff, Nathan Hall had a chance to win it after a sharp pass from Hunt with an eight footer. The ball rimmed out as the teams prepared to fight it out in overtime.
The Vikings were down 30-24 with under three minutes in the final period and fought and clawed their way back to knot the game and eventually take the lead for good in the contest.
Early into the overtime, Hunt drilled a 3-pointer that emotionally drained the Logan bench. It was as if a safety pin had punctured a child's birthday balloon.
With 1:13 to play in the three minute overtime period, Goff misfired on a 3-point attempt and Hunt scored for Ripley on a short jumper, close to the bucket. Ripley was up 36-32.
Logan (14-4) managed to punch the ball inside and squeeze out a bucket bringing the game to a 36-34 score.
Hunt was fouled with 14.5 seconds and missed the front end of a one-and- one. Logan snagged the rebound and Goff fired up another 3-point bomb with 2.4 seconds and the ball hits the back of the rim and bounces beyond the paint to the chagrin of Logan's bench. Ripley point guard Lane Casto snagged the ball and was immediately fouled.
Casto had a chance to ice the game. He sank the first free throw and Ripley coach Mark Wayne showed the ultimate confidence in his player by calling a timeout before his second attempt, so that he could set up Ripley's defense on Logan's inbound attempt if Casto was successful.
Successful he was. Casto tickled the twine like he was born to do just that. Ripley's fans would flood the court shortly after and celebrate their 38-34 Mid Valley Athletic Conference Basketball Championship.
Hunt, who took over the game in the final period wasn't interested in talking about his own play but had some things to say about his teammates.
Page 2 of 2 - "The whole team played a great game. Nathan Hall and Chase Johnson kept us in the game with their rebounding, Lane (Casto) did a great job finishing at the line and in the paint and Elijah Riffe took care of the ball all night. Our coaches did a great job of leading us tonight."
Coach Wayne spoke candidly of his team after the victory.
"I am very proud of our boys. A week ago, we all understood that our own assessment of our own season was riding on just three games." Wayne continued, "We had high expectations from day one. We worked hard and we are blessed to get it done."