The Barton Bears (12-5) insured that their season will extend one more week as they qualified for the regional tournament for the second consecutive year by coming from behind to defeat the Marianna Trojans with a 66-61 victory in the first round of the 3A-2 Conference Tournament at Bald Knob.


In what Coach Greg Poole described as a “fast-paced” game, Barton struggled to hit shots from the outside in the first half as sixth-seeded Marianna took a 36-34 halftime lead into the locker room at the intermission.


The third quarter saw both defenses take over. Both teams were held to single digits for the period and the Trojans began the final stanza believing that an upset of the Bears was within their grasp as they led 43-42.


In the final stanza, it was all offense and, for the Bears, it was the coming out party for freshman Hakeem Hancock. With just over 4:00 to go in the basketball game, Wanya Wilkins, Barton’s leading scorer fouled out of the game. Hancock came off of the bench and scored nine points.


With time winding down, Poole pulled out a full-court press and Cameron McMurray got hot from the outside, hitting two late three point shots to put the Bears in front for good. Marianna had to turn to fouling to stop the clock, but McMurray hit four of five free throws in the final two minutes to seal the victory and move Barton on to the tournament semifinals.


Wilkins led Barton with 18 points. Ky’Aire Earnest scored 16. Hancock added 14 and McMurray rounded out those in double figures with 13 points.


Poole was pleased with the performance saying, “Our guys came through down the stretch. I am very proud of the performance.”


Barton will face the Harding Academy Wildcats on Friday night at 8:30 pm at Bald Knob High School with a berth in Saturday’s championship game on the line.