By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Ozark, Mo. — While Tyem Freeman is a special player, Parkview is a far cry from a one-man team.
On the largest of stages — the Class 5 District 11 championship — the Vikings put that argument to rest.
Three Parkview players eclipsed the 20-point mark Thursday night, as the No. 4 seed upset No. 1 Glendale 86-78 to win the school’s first district title since 1990.
Parkview head coach Landon Cornish praised his kids for doing all of the little things necessary to pull off the win.
“What we did tonight was a complete group effort,” Cornish said. “Defensively and offensively, to finish the game out, everybody played together. There were a lot of people that put a lot of undue pressure on our kids, and there was a time where things could have got divisive in our locker room. I give so much credit to our kids for sticking together and just playing within our locker room.”
From the opening tip, Freeman set the pace, repeatedly driving into the lane and kicking to open shooters.
While the shots didn’t fall early — Freeman was 3-5 with the rest of the team 1-9 in the opening period — the Vikings didn’t deviate from the plan.
Good thing, too.
Tied 13-13 heading into the second quarter, Parkview’s heated up from the perimeter with six 3-pointers in the period.
As the first half drew to a close, Gage Clark connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Vikings a 43-35 lead heading into the break. Clark finished the game with 20 points and four 3-pointers.
“I was just giving it my all,” Clark said. “One hundred percent for my team. That’s all I care about, man. I just wanted to go out there and play my hardest to get us the win.”
Head coach Landon Cornish praised the 6-foot-4 senior’s performance and cautioned his team to play within themselves.
“Gage has stepped up huge the last two nights,” Cornish said. “He’s just a competitor — bottom line. Yeah, we were hot there in the second quarter hitting 3s, but that’s not us. That’s not who we are, and you can’t get lost playing a team like Glendale and think you’re going to match them 3-for-3. We score at the rim, we play solid defense and that’s what we had to remember.”
Parkview’s run continued into the third quarter.
Dontae Taylor’s basket with 5:37 left in the period gave the Vikings their biggest lead of the game at 51-39 and forced a Glendale timeout.
In the huddle, Cornish urged his team to pace themselves.
“[Glendale] is so explosive,” Cornish said. “After we went on that run and called timeout, I said, ‘You all need to breathe right now, because this is going to be a really long finish, and we can’t just give everything right now and not have anything to finish.’”
While Glendale’s lethal scoring duo of Monty Johal and Jordan Walton didn’t find a great deal of wide open looks, the pair managed to keep the Falcons within striking distance throughout the contest, combined for 55 points on 14-for-27 shooting from the field.
Junior Winston Quinn added 15 points for the Falcons with four 3-pointers.
In the fourth, Parkview continued to find success attacking the rim, primarily due to the combination of Freeman and point guard Dontae Taylor, who led the Vikings in scoring with 26 and 23 points, respectively.
After missing Taylor for much of the regular season, Cornish was quick to point out the 6-foot sophomore’s value to the program.
“We went through the majority of the season with Dontae being out with an ankle injury, and you don’t understand how hard it is to play without a point guard until you don’t have one,” Cornish said. “Now that he’s back healthy, that’s what he’s capable of doing. He just didn’t get a chance to show it all year long.”
Late in the game, Glendale mounted one final rally.
Moments after a Johal 3-pointer brought the Falcons back within three at the 2:08 mark, Freeman was whistled for his fifth foul.
Rather than blink, Parkview continued attacking the basket and converting free throws.
“Kids just realized, we’re going to the rim and getting fouled for free throws,” Cornish said. “We weren’t going to settle for some open jumpers that we had in the first half.”
The Vikings converted 13-of-19 shots from the line in the final period to help stretch the slim lead; however, it was a series of defensive plays from Gage in the final minutes — a steal, a huge rebound in traffic and a pair of blocks — that finally sealed the victory.
After the district plaque presentation, Parkview students and fans raced out from the bleachers and participated in a gargantuan dog pile at center court.
And there was Cornish, right in the middle of it all.
“Our school has been through a lot, and we have a lot of really good people and a lot of really, really good kids,” Cornish said. “People, sometimes, don’t understand how hard our kids work and the types of adversity we face on and off the court. For the students to be here and appreciate what those guys were doing — their classmates and teammates; to come celebrate that was really special for us.”
With the victory, Parkview (17-10) advances to the state sectional round and will play Friday’s District 12 winner — either Nixa or Joplin — on Wednesday, March 7.
Varsity Final: Parkview – 86, Glendale – 78
Parkview 13 30 15 28 — 86
Glendale 13 22 19 24 — 78
Parkview scoring: Tyem Freeman – 26, Dontae Taylor – 23, Gage Clark – 20, Daru Elliot – 10, Alonzo Riwa – 3 Damarcus Mason – 2, Latre Morrison – 2
Glendale scoring: Monty Johal – 30, Jordan Walton – 25, Winston Quinn – 15, Jaxon Davis – 7, Jadon Gilpin – 1