Ashton Stallings swished the go-ahead 3-pointer and Mike Givens converted both ends of a one-and-one in the final 5.5 seconds as Sterlington remained undefeated with a 52-49 decision over West Ouachita on Tuesday night at the Panthers Den.

Sterlington led nearly the entire game, but Reid Guirlando’s 10-footer put the Chiefs ahead 46-45 with 1:09 remaining.

Cliff Jones answered with a driving one-hander in traffic as the Panthers (6-0) retook the lead, 47-46. Making his season debut, Jones scored all six of his points in the second half.

“Cliff played (football) against Jennings Friday night. He got in here Sunday and Monday, pushed himself hard, and finished the game for us tonight,” Sterlington coach Cory Emerson said. “That shows what kind of player he is.”

Caleb Williams replied with a deep 3 to put the Chiefs up 49-47 with 32 seconds to play.

Back on the Sterlington end, Chance Carter grabbed his own rebound and kicked the ball out to Stallings, who hit the critical 3 from the right wing with 5.5 seconds left.

Leading 50-49, Sterlington then made a critical defensive stop as Fred Hymes won a scramble for a loose ball.

After the Panthers spent a timeout, Givens was fouled immediately on the inbounds pass, and sank both free throws to make it 52-49 with 4.2 ticks to go.

“Ashton made a big 3-point shot, and Mike hit the big free throws at the end,” Emerson said. “Making those two free throws was big because that meant they had to hit a 3 to tie.”

Givens came down with a desperation inbounds pass on the defensive end to seal the result.

Stallings set up L’Davion Hicks from point-blank range just before the horn sounded to give Sterlington a 13-12 edge. at the end of the first period. The Panthers would lead for the next 26 minutes.

Leading 23-18, Sterlington outscored the Chiefs 6-0 over the final three-plus minutes of the second quarter. Carter made two free throws, Bryce Holton split two defenders for a transition layup and Stallings finished on the break to give the Panthers a 39-28 halftime cushion.

West Ouachita hoisted up 26 shots from beyond the 3-point stripe, including 19 in the first half. Williams accounted for five of the Chiefs’ seven treys.

“A big part of our gameplan was to take away the 3-point line,” Emerson said. “We tried to take it away, and (Williams) still hit four 3s in the first half. That goes to show how quick he can get his shot off.”

West Ouachita got off to a fast start in the third quarter. Reid Guirlando splashed home a 3-pointer and sank two free throws, and Cole Moore added a rebound basket to bring the Chiefs within 29-25.

Held scoreless through the first three minutes, 44 seconds of the second half, the Chiefs responded with a 7-0 flurry.

Carter’s three-point play set up by a bounce pass from Givens, Jones’ follow-up basket, and a close range deuce from Jones pushed the margin back to 11 (35-26).

Sterlington maintained a nine-point spread, 38-29, entering the final quarter.

Two buckets by Guirlando and a long 3 by Tobias Owens shaved the deficit to 38-36 with 5:33 to play.

West Ouachita eventually overtook the Panthers with 1:09 left, but the Panthers were up to the challenge.

“In the second half, we got a little stagnant on offense, had some turnovers and gave up some offensive rebounds, which allowed them to get back in it,” Emerson said.

Carter topped the Panthers’ balanced scoring attack with 12 points and Givens pitched in 10.

For West Ouachita (4-2), Guirlando poured in 23 points and Williams 18.

Sterlington shot a respectable 46.5 percent (20-of-43) from the field while making 4-of-11 (36.5 percent) of its 3-point tries. West Ouachita shot 34.7 percent (17-of-49) from the floor and 26.9 percent (7-of-26) from beyond the arc. Both teams made 8-of-12 (66.7 percent) free throws.

Both teams return to the court Thursday night. West Ouachita is at home vs. Neville, while the Panthers take the short ride to Ouachita Christian.

_______________________________________________________

Box Score

West Ouachita 12  6  11  20—49

Sterlington ….. 13 16  9  14—52

WEST OUACHITA (4-2) — Reid Guirlando 23, Caleb Williams 18, Cole Moore 4, Tobias Owens 3, Tanner Wise 1.

STERLINGTON (6-0) — Chance Carter 12, Mike Givens 10, Ashton Stallings 9, Cliff Jones 6, Fred Hymes 6, Bryce Holton 5, L’Davion Hicks 4.

Three-point goals — West Ouachita 7 (Williams 5, Guirlando 1, Owens 1), Sterlington 4 (Givens 2, Stallings 1, Holton 1. Total fouls — West Ouachita 13, Sterlington 12. Free throw shooting — West Ouachita 8-12, Sterlington 8-12. Fouled out — none. Technicals — none.

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