Clutch basket lifts Zebras

GREENWOOD — A clutch basket by Tyrone Payne helped Pine Bluff pass its first-round in the 6A state boys basketball tournament.

Payne hit a two-point shot with 4.6 seconds left to break a tie, and the Zebras held on to defeat Mountain Home 58-55 Thursday in the final first-round game of the tourney. Pine Bluff (14-10) now has another test ahead when it takes on Jonesboro, last year’s 6A state runner-up, here at 8:30 tonight.

After Payne made his go-ahead basket, the Bombers were called for traveling. Rickey Clements was then fouled and made 1 of 2 free throws, still giving the Bombers a chance to tie. But their three-point shot before the buzzer was no good.

Mountain Home charged back into the game after trailing 21-7 through one period. Pine Bluff was up 31-22 at halftime, but its lead was only 39-36 going into the final 8 minutes.

“Starting out, we were in man,” Pine Bluff coach Carl Smith said. “We had to back out because of foul trouble. Mountain Home made some key baskets.”

Payne led the Zebras with 19 points. Darrian Kee scored 17 and Clements finished with 14.

The winner of tonight’s Pine Bluff-Jonesboro game will play either Benton or El Dorado at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.