GOREVILLE -- When it's crunch time, stars rise to the occasion.
Anna-Jonesboro senior Jake Parr hit a 15-foot jumper with two seconds left in overtime here Monday night, giving the Wildcats a 67-65 victory over Benton in the season opener for both teams at the Goreville Invitational Tournament.
Parr single-handedly whipped the Rangers, scoring over half of his team's total, finishing with 35 points. Parr owned the paint while several different Benton players were assigned to guard him.
"Parr just made a play and I thought he was the best player on the floor tonight," said Benton coach Ron Winemiller. "We put Gehrig (Wynn) on him finally and I thought Gehrig did a good job. He guarded that last shot just the way he should've, but Parr just made a good shot."
A-J forced the overtime when Jacob Zimmerman knocked down a three ball with 42 seconds remaining.
Benton had a chance to win in regulation. However, Wynn missed a floater in the lane with six seconds remaining. The Rangers recovered the rebound, but were called for traveling.
"I thought we got the shot we wanted by the guy we wanted. It didn't go in tonight. If it goes in tomorrow night, we're all smiles," Winemiller said. "We did some things in the middle of the game where we let them outphysical us a little bit. I felt like we got tougher as the game went on and that's the thing I'm most positive about tonight. I thought our kids fought hard and competed."
Benton led by as many as six points in the opening quarter. A-J took brief leads of one and three points in the second quarter. However, the Rangers ended the last four minutes of the half on a 12-2 run to go up 35-28 at halftime.
During an 8-2 run to end the third quarter, Parr scored the final 13 points for the Wildcats, giving them a 50-48 lead. The Rangers scored the first seven points of the final quarter to take a 55-51 lead. An A-J trey, Parr's drive through the lane and Zimmerman's dart led to the 59-all tie at the end of regulation.
Parr scored on a stickback to start the overtime. Wynn followed with a jumper in the lane, however, Parr's three-point bucket with 1:27 left gave the 'Cats a 64-61 advantage. Wynn responded with a rebound bucket and Sheldon McGrath hit one of two free throws for a 65-63 Wildcat lead. Benton's Hamilton Page hit a pair of free throws with 18.5 seconds left, knotting the game at 65. That led to Parr's game-winning shot just ahead of the buzzer.
Senior center Parker Williams, who was in foul trouble most of the final quarter, led the Rangers with 19 points. Wynn chipped in 18, including three treys. Cade Thomas and Page contributed nine points each. McGrath added 11 points for the Wildcats.
Benton was proficient at the charity stripe, hitting 16-of-21 chances. The Rangers were outrebounded 23-15. Both teams committed 14 turnovers.
In looking ahead to future tournament games on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, Winemiller said there is room for improvement.
"We've got to work on our depth. I knew tonight was going to be a game where we couldn't get a lot of guys in and give them a solid look. Hopefully, as the tournament goes on, we can work on our bench and rotation," Winemiller said.