By TED RADICK
MCCOMB — Blaiz McBride didn’t expect to shoot.
The senior guard took the ball up top on an inbounds play Friday night at McComb and made his way toward the basket.
McBride, who got the ball with 10 seconds left in a game tied at 46-46, figured he’d kick the ball off to one of his Arlington teammates.
McComb had them smothered, however, and McBride drove to the basket, pulled up and hit a short jumper in traffic with 4 seconds remaining for the winning basket as Arlington defeated McComb 48-46 in a Blanchard Valley Conference boys basketball game.
McBride finished with a game-high 18 points. The play, though, was supposed to free up either 3-point specialist Andrew Hunter or post Michael Blunk.
“We were trying to get the ball to Andrew Hunter, and they did a good job covering him,” McBride said. “The idea then was to do a drop pass to Mike, but his guy didn’t slide over and free him up.
“I just had to be a senior and take it in. I just went up and over.”
Arlington improved to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in league play. McComb fell to 1-2, 0-1.
Arlington coach Jason Vermillion said he was comfortable with the ball in McBride’s hands late in a back-and-forth game. McBride is one of a handful of returning Red Devils who got significant playing time on last year’s final four team.
“We wanted it in one of our playmakers’ hands to let it go,” Vermillion said. “They had a pretty good defense against it, and Blaiz hit a tough shot in some traffic.
“There was concern still, with four seconds to go, that they could get a good shot off. And Jerry did, he had a good look.”
McComb’s Jerry Brown, after a Panthers’ timeout to set up a last-second play, freed himself and took a running 14-footer that skimmed off the rim at the buzzer.
“The last possession, we wanted to deny Hunter the ball. And we did,” McComb coach Aaron Roth said. “That was a big shot by McBride. He made a play. It wasn’t an easy shot. We did what I asked our guys to do, it just didn’t work out.”
Roth said his team succeeded in the big picture against Arlington despite playing without senior point guard Dalton Buck, who is out until next month with an ankle injury. Some of the smaller things, Roth said, came back to bite the Panthers.
“Going 5 for 12 from the free-throw line in a two-point game is going to hurt, and we missed a couple of layups,” Roth said. “Look, nobody feels sorry for us that Buck’s not playing. Their job is to beat us, so we’re not using it as an excuse. We’re just trying to be better, and maybe at the end of the year it will pay off.
“It’s early in the year and we’ll learn from this, but it would have made it easier to learn if we’d have won.”
McComb came out sharp in the early going, hitting nine of its first 10 field-goal attempts in building a 19-15 lead after one quarter. They expanded that to 23-15 early in the second. Brown, Clay Dysert and Clay Grubb were each 3 of 4 from the field as the Panthers hit 11 of 17 shots from the floor in the first half.
“We were reeling, defensively, in the first quarter,” Vermilion said. “They were hitting some tough shots, and knocking down their open looks. We felt fortunate to have our 15 to their 19, but 19 is way too much against a good team like that.
“Michael got in foul trouble, and we had to make some adjustments against (Brown). We went small against him with Blaiz, and Blaiz did a pretty good job on him even though Jerry still continued to do stuff.”
Arlington worked its way back with some hot shooting. The Red Devils hit 7 of 8 from the field in the third quarter as Blunk had eight of his 10 points to help Arlington build as much as a 40-34 lead.
McComb regained the margin at 43-32 on a Cody Wilson layup early in the fourth, and the game remained tight to the finish. A layup by Hunter put Arlington up 46-43 with 1:34 left, but Brown answered with a 3-pointer on the next possession to tie it and eventually set up McBride’s key shot.
“We’re happy to walk out of here with a win,” Vermillion said. “McComb did a lot of things right tonight. When you consider they played without Buck and that they’re not even in basketball shape just yet, that will be a good team sooner rather than later.”
Arlington (4-0, 2-0)
Hunter 4-0—10, Freed 2-1–6, McBride 7-3—18, Glick 2-0—4, Blunk 5-0—10, Frysinger 0-0—0, Metzger 0-0—0, Courtney 0-0—0. TOTALS: 20-41 4-5—48.
McComb (1-2, 0-1)
Reardon 1-0—3, Wilson 3-3—9, Dysert 4-1—11, Brown 4-1—10, Grubb 6-0—13, Shoop 0-0—0, Schroeder 0-0—0, Hanes 0-0—0. TOTALS: 18-30 5-12—46.
Arlington 15 8 17 8 — 48
McComb 19 9 8 10 — 46
3-Point GOALS: Arlington 4-13 (Hunter 2, Freed, McBride); McComb 5-7 (Dysert 2, Reardon, Brown, Grubb).
rebounds: Arlington 23 (Freed 8); McComb 17 (Grubb 4).
turnovers: Arlington 12, McComb 13.
junior varsity: Arlington, 42-23.