TOWANDA — Two free throws, a steal and a layup by Paxton Swanson in the game’s final seconds secured a comeback victory as the Parsons Vikings beat Circle 65-63 in the first game of the remotely-held T-Bird Classic.
Parsons showcased its identity as a gritty, never-going-away ballclub on Monday night as it trailed by 10 in the first quarter for the second straight game.
“It says a lot on how we don’t quit and keep going,” senior guard Ethan Houk said. “We started pressing and that slowed them down. They weren’t in as good of condition as us and that benefits us in the long run. We go strong into the fourth quarter and that’s what helped.”
Senior forward Julius Smith-Reece had a career-high 31 points in the win for Parsons.
“There’s not really a lot to it,” Smith-Reece said. “I just had fun out there. It all happened so fast.”
However, the Vikings still trailed by five points in the game’s final minute. A layup by Jessie Jones, where he was fouled and hit the free throw, brought the deficit to two.
Swanson was then fouled on the next possession and hit a pair of foul shots to tie the game. Five seconds later, Swanson tipped a pass, snatched the ball and raced down the floor for the game-winning layup.
“I believed that he’d hit those free throws,” Houk said. “I was confident in them. Then once I saw him tip it and get that steal, I yelled in awe. I just couldn’t believe it.”
The Vikings are now 2-0 on a season many wondered about heading into the winter after Parsons graduated one of its most celebrated-ever classes.
“That game showed our spirit,” Smith-Reece said. “Everybody here wants to win and win a league title. That win helps us get to our goals.”
“We had a gutsy performance,” Senior Sylas Hickles added. “We had great defense and that’s what our team is. We’re defense.”
Parsons returns home on Thursday for a matchup against Mulvane in the second game of the T-Bird Classic.
“It’s going to be a hard-fought game,” Hickles said. “They’ve got great players, but we’ve got great players too. We’ve got to keep playing good defense and get to the foul line.”
PARSONS; 9;23;16;17 – 65
CIRCLE; 19;18;10;16 – 63
Parsons: Smith-Reece 31, Houk 9, Swanson 9, Jones 8, Hickles 6, Gatewood 2.
Circle: McGinnis 30, Middleton17, Galloway 5, Smith 4, Foes 3, Cowman 2, Koehn 2.