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story.lead_photo.caption The Magnolia Panthers are pictured with their banner and trophy after winning the 2019 Class 4A State Basketball Championship. Freshman Derrian Ford was the game’s MVP. (Chris Gilliam)

HOT SPRINGS - Magnolia freshman Derrian Ford was named the Most Valuable Player with his 28-point performance, but head coach Dyun Long said there were several factors that led the Panthers’ 78-76 overtime win against Little Rock Mills Saturday night in the Class 4A State Finals at the Hot Springs Convention Center.

The Panthers (24-5) used a 13-3 run in the second period to lead at half-time, but it was Ford’s bucket with 21 seconds remaining that sent the game in overtime. Tied 76-76 and eight seconds left in the extra period, junior Braylen Beasley tipped in a missed Ford shot for the winning points.

“They made one or two more plays than we did. Though they were smaller, they were aggressive and quick,” said Mills’ coach Raymond Cooper. “For a freshman, the kid is really, really tough. As far as freshmen go, I don’t think there’s no one better.”

Following Ford, freshman Colby Garland had 21 points and senior Markeveon Strickland finished with 15. Senior Kevin Cross led Mills (28-5) with 24, while Orion Virden had 22 and Branton McCray provided 20.

“This has been an unbelievable ride and a dream come true,” said Long. “Braelyn has been a beast on the boards and probably our leading rebounder the past three weeks.”

More than 6,000 fans watched filled the Bank OZK Arena Saturday, and it was estimated that at least 3,500 or more were from Magnolia.

“They (fans) have supported us all season. They traveled to regionals in Mena and were here in Hot Springs,” said Long.

It was Magnolia’s first state basketball championship since 1997.

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