Houston's Aaron Cantrell passes as he drove to the basket in the first half Monday against Mansfield.

There may not be many more thrilling victories than Rob Coffey’s first career win.

A back-and-forth contest that included four ties and neither team leading by more than two points the eight minutes ended with one last thrilling play Tuesday night. Aaron Cantrell knocked away Mansfield’s length-of-the-court pass with 1.4 seconds remaining to protect Houston’s one-point advantage. As the ball landed in Kolby Walker’s hands and time expired, the players and fans inside Hiett Gymnasium celebrated the first win of the season and first for Coffey.

HHS 39, Mansfield 38.

“It’s a great feeling,” said Coffey, the program’s seventh coach in eight seasons. “Words can’t express what this will do for the guys. They need rewarded for the work they’ve put in.”

The Tigers (1-1) took the lead for good when senior Devin Coulter made the second of two free throws with 52 seconds remaining. Cantrell twice missed the front end of one-and-ones in the final 11 seconds and after scramble on the floor, a jump ball gave Mansfield possession with just over one second left.

With the full length of the court to go, the Lions’ Tanner Allen threw a baseball-style pass in the direction of 6-foot-6 teammate Jacob Caruso. But the ball was tipped away by Cantrell and caught by Walker to secure the victory.

“Until it was in Kolby’s hands, I didn’t feel comfortable,” Coffey said. “Those last 30 seconds were about as wild as it gets.”

Walker scored 10 of his game-high 12 points in the second half to pace Houston. Coulter scored nine, and Cantrell and Keegan Spurlin had eight points apiece.

Caruso and Dalton McNeil had 11 points apiece for Mansfield (0-1).

Spurlin and sophomore Nathan Poynter were inserted into the Houston starting lineup following the team’s 30-point loss to Cuba in the season opener.

“Keegan fights harder than anyone we have on the team, and Nathan did a good job bringing the ball down the floor,” Coffey said. “That’s what I needed – someone to protect the ball.”

Houston scored 11 unanswered points – five before the half for a 17-16 advantage and six after the break – to take a 23-16 lead. It didn’t last. Mansfield scored 12 of the next 15 points to go ahead by two and set up a tight finish.

Spurlin gave HHS a 34-32 lead when he scored on a feed from Poynter with 3:22 remaining. After an Allen jumper tied it, Walker put the Tigers back in front with a jumper of his own.

McNeil scored for Mansfield to make it 36-all, but Walker again answered with a jumper at the 1:34 mark to put HHS in front.

Walker scored six of Houston’s 13 points – all jump shots – in the fourth quarter.

“I wanted to push him outside a little more because he can hit those shots,” Coffey said.

Two McNeil free throws with 1:11 left tied it again at 38-38. Coulter made one free throw 19 seconds later to push the Tigers back in front, and they were able to protect the advantage through the exciting finish.

“We never quit,” Coffey said. “That’s what I’ve got to see from these guys all season long. They never quit fighting.”

Box score

 Mansfield   7   9   12    10    –    38 
Houston        9      8      9      13      –      39   

MANSFIELD (38) – Tanner Allen 9. Justin Campbell 3. Kyle Elliott 2. Jacob Caruso 11. Beau Massey 2. Dalton McNeil 11. FG 15. FT 6-11. F 15. (3-pointers: McNeil 2. Fouled out: Elliott).

HOUSTON (39) – Nathan Poynter 2. Devin Coulter 9. Aaron Cantrell 8. Kolby Walker 12. Keegan Spurlin 8. FG 16. FT 6-12. F 11. (3-pointers: Cantrell. Fouled out: none).

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