The Eagles led Mountain View by 13 at the start of the fourth quarter only to see the margin whittled away, then turned into a 53-51 defeat by the final buzzer.
The decisive drive came with 11 seconds remaining, when Wildcats point guard Lucas Brown wove through the paint and made a right-handed layup.
“We weren’t playing good help-side defense [in the fourth quarter],” said Freedom senior forward Marcavett Fowler. “We’ve got to start taking more charges as a team and as a family.”
Fowler scored a team-high 14 points, doing almost all of the work down low.
Freedom Coach James West said the Eagles prepared all week for Mountain View’s 1-3-1 defense. The Eagles guards exploited the gaps in the defense with strong drives to the basket, especially during the third quarter, when they outscored Mountain View, 20-10.
In the fourth quarter, something changed.
“We weren’t driving the ball and kicking out,” Manning said. “We stopped the ball and held it. We didn’t have any pressure on us, and we just made unforced turnovers.”
Brown gave Mountain View its first lead of the second half, 51-49, with just under a minute to play. The crowd’s roar from Brown’s layup was still reverberating when Manning caught a pass in transition and fought off a hard foul to sink a left-handed layup off the glass to tie it at 51 with 30 seconds remaining.
It was Manning’s most spectacular scoring play, but he left it unfinished.
“What should have counted was me making the [and-one] free throw and putting us up by one,” he said.
Instead, Brown’s field goal and a missed Eagles buzzer-beater ended things.
“It’s not going to happen again,” Fowler said. “I’ll promise you this myself, that it won’t happen again. [Friday] at Forest Park, it’s going to be a bad thing going on.”