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TRINITY — Land O’Lakes senior Jackson Cannon stood wide-eyed under the basket with 10 seconds remaining. He watched Ernest McClendon receive all of the defensive attention on the final possession, leaving him open.
McClendon dished Cannon the ball and he put up the winning field goal. Land O’Lakes outlasted Mitchell 58-56 for the Class 6A, District 10 title Friday — the Gators’ first in 11 years.
“The last pass by Ernest was slow motion, I couldn’t describe it,” said Cannon. “Everybody has a role and I made the last shot, but that’s not what won the game. Defense won the game.”
Land O’Lakes (21-6) gradually built a 41-30 lead to begin the fourth quarter thanks to stellar shooting from McClendon and a constant low-post presence by Victor Obi. The game favored the Gators until Mitchell’s Jordan Dong and Bernie Conley started draining 3-pointers on every Mustang possession. A 3 by Dong squared the game at 54, erupting the Mustang crowd.
“I almost stroked out because with Jake (Driscoll) and Dong, they’re the county’s best 3-point shooters, there was no way we could let up,” Land O’Lakes coach Dave Puhalski said.
Driscoll registered a steal and followed with a layup for a 56-55 Mustang (20-7) lead. He finished with 11 points.
“I honestly started to get nervous, especially with Driscoll’s scoring ability,” said McClendon, who finished with a game-high 20 points and five rebounds.
McClendon was fouled on the subsequent possession, sinking the front end of the free throw and tying the score at 56 with less than a minute left. Mitchell was unable to score, allowing Cannon his moment of glory.