Zach Hestily continued the recent trend in Bryan County basketball of late-game dramatics on Thursday.
Hestily’s 23 points and 12 rebounds led Victory Life Academy, but it was his baseline three in the closing seconds which took the lead and the game from Milburn in a 53-51 win for the VLA Eagles in their home opener.
The Lady Eagles also notched a home win in a 35-31 decision over visiting Milburn. In both games, VLA had to claw back from early deficits to take over.
Now both VLA teams are 3-7 on the season after a slow start in their first nine games away from home.
“One thing we always preach to both teams is staying together through adversity,” said VLA Coach Chris Valliere. “We stepped up in the big moments. We’re coming together, getting more intense in practice and working more on fundamentals. It’s paying off and I’m proud of both teams.”
In the boys game, the home Eagles fell behind 16-8 in the first quarter but trailed only 31-28 by halftime. A 13-4 run for VLA in the third quarter gave them a 41-35 lead but Milburn’s Brandon Vaness shot his team’s way back into the game.
Milburn took a 51-50 lead in the game’s final minute on a short jumper from Tyler Gibson. Connor Harrison came up with a huge defensive block on Milburn’s next drive, and VLA got the ball and set up Hestily’s game winner.
Harrison finished with 10 points and seven boards, Chandler Stampley scored eight points before fouling out, Logan Hestily had seven, Ben Grody contributed three and Clay Lankford scored an early basket.
Vaness led Milburn with 25 points and Garrett Samis had 15.
On the girls’ side, Milburn took a 14-8 halftime lead but VLA came back from a 27-20 deficit in the fourth quarter to go on a 15-4 scoring spree in the final eight minutes.
A seven-point run was capped by Amber Bruce’s three-pointer to tie the game in the fourth. A baseline jumper from Justus Harris broke a 29-all tie and Destiny Everett’s four late points helped the Lady Eagles secure the game for good.
Bruce finished with 13 for VLA, Harris had eight, Scarlett Stinchcomb and Madi Wagnitz joined Everett with four each, and Larra Langford had a basket.
The Lady Eagles now look forward to Saturday when they host the “Play for Kay Scrimmage.” Teams from Calera, Silo and Wetumka will join VLA for a one-hour camp at 9 a.m. before seven shortened scrimmages are held.
Here are the scheduled scrimmages: 10:10 a.m. - Silo at VLA; 10:50 - Calera vs. Wetumka; 11:30 - Silo at VLA; 12:10 p.m. - Silo vs. Wetumka; 12:50 - Calera at VLA; 1:30 - Calera vs. Wetumka; 2:10 - Wetumka at VLA.