A young McKinleyville Panthers team came of age on Friday night.
And boy did they do so in style.
Freshman Jack Clancy capped a huge second-half rally with a half-court buzzer-beater to lift the visiting Panthers to a 66-63 win at Fortuna in boys basketball.
It was the first league win for a young Mack team that has had to overcome adversity this season, and a roster that features just three seniors and six freshmen/sophomores.
“We loved it,” a delighted head coach Sonny Tripp said afterwards. “And we needed it. And it shows that these young guys can play with the rest of the Big 5. It was a total team effort.”
The win lifts the Panthers to 1-4 in the Big 5 and ends a five-game losing streak.
Despite holding a huge advantage at halftime, it was the home team that had to come from behind in the final minute, nailing two of four late free-throw attempts to tie the game at 63-63 with just 11 seconds remaining.
The Panthers called a time out, but the play broke down on the restart and Clancy almost lost possession before his last-gasp heroics sealed the win.
The freshman standout was far from the only hero for the Panthers, who owned the second half.
The ever-consistent Michael Boatright, who has taken on more of a leadership role late in the season, had another big game, as did fellow seniors Will Hamm and Max Combs.
“All three of our seniors contributed,” Tripp said. “And we had a ton of sophomores step up.”
Hamm, according to his coach, “got some big rebounds for us down low,” while Combs provided a steady hand at point guard.
Sophomores Carson Parker and Connor Alto both also were instrumental in the second-half surge.
“We made a huge third-quarter run,” said Tripp, whose team started the second half on a 10-0 run. “We got some good buckets in transition.”
The Panthers are now 6-13 overall, while the Huskies dropped to 2-3 in the Big 5 and 9-13 overall.