IRONTON – West County shut down an Ellington threat from the post, and aggressively beat the top-seeded Whippets to the rim on numerous occasions in a dominant first half on Thursday night.
Highlighted by a sensational dunk from 5-foot-9 senior guard Parker Forshee late in the first quarter, the Bulldogs were well on pace to repeat as champions of the 89th Arcadia Valley Thanksgiving Tournament.
But the talented junior tandem of Wes Sharp and Marshon Morrissey powered a second-half surge, and propelled Ellington to its first AV title since 1995 with a 66-60 comeback victory.
Morrissey netted 26 points and handed Ellington (3-0) its first lead since the opening minutes at 56-55 while colliding with a defender with 2:13 to play.
West County (2-1) had delayed the ultimate rally with timely shooting as 3-pointers by Blake Barlow and Jacob Meinershagen pushed a pair of 4-point margins back to seven.
But the perimeter game turned cold down the stretch. Sharp hit a key transition pull-up in the lane, and the Whippets burned 43 seconds on a key possession before perfect trips to the line by Jacob Richards and Morrissey helped to close out the win.
Sharp posted his third straight double-double of the tournament with 22 points and 13 rebounds, and sparked a huge change in momentum after tallying just one basket in the first half.
He drilled five 3-pointers after intermission, including three in a row to trim a 15-point deficit down to 42-35 in the third quarter. Another one answered Barlow to bring Ellington within 53-49.
Roger Vance finished off an entry pass from Forshee to briefly restore a 55-51 West County advantage with 2:55 left, but Sharp connected yet again, and a defensive stop led to Morrissey’s go-ahead basket.
Meinershagen capped a tremendous tournament with a game-high 29 points and seven rebounds, and successfully looked to attack whenever the opportunity arose.
He made an early steal and layup after swishing an initial triple, then sprang Forshee for a transition layup and eventual 3-point play after pulling down a physical rebound.
The duo combined to electrify the crowd moments later. Forshee elevated high to a long backdoor lob from Meinershagen, and threw it down to snap a 12-12 tie.
West County surrounded both Sharp and Morrissey when either man looked to establish position inside the perimeter. Jared Jones, Vance and Barlow were able to limit second shots on the boards.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs used fast break and quick cuts around screens to pick the Ellington defense apart. Those same chances dried up significantly after halftime.
Meinershagen split two Ellington players inside for a 3-point play and followed with another outlet to Forshee for a 26-14 lead, marking the conclusion of a 14-2 run.
The difference reached its peak at 35-20 when Matt Momot knocked down a 12-footer. He was the lone player on either bench to register points.
Morrissey kept Ellington afloat with 10 points in the second quarter, and made a nifty spinning shot while creating off the dribble just before time expired.
Forshee, whose runner at the final buzzer pushed the Bulldogs past host Arcadia Valley in the semifinal round, ended with 16 points and five assists despite missing his last five free-throw attempts.
Shawn Chilton contributed 15 points for the Whippets, and showed his toughness by drawing a charge moments after taking an inadvertent knee below the belt in the first quarter.