Cougars Back to Regional Play
The Cougars are heading back to the 2A North Regional Tournament, having advanced to the semifinals of the 2A-3 District Tournament this past week at Monette. This is the fourth time RHS has advanced to regional play in five years, missing the event last season after postseason runs in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
"This (reaching the regional tournament) was one of our main goals at the start of the year," RHS coach Matt Mills said. "Being here and having the chance to move on is why we've worked so hard in practice."
Rector emerged from the district tourney as the fourth seed from 2A-3, falling to district host, and eventual champ, Buffalo Island Central in the semifinals Thursday. The seeding didn't do the Cougars any favors at the regional level, as Rector must now face Cedar Ridge, the number one seed from 2A-2 and top 2A team in the state. RHS is set to take the court at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Pangburn.
Mills and his Cougars aren't shaking in their sneakers, though; Rector reached the state tournament in 2011 and 2012, advancing to the semifinals in the latter.
"We've proven in the past that we can get it done in the postseason," Mills said. "We'll come out ready to play. We drew a tough assignment with Cedar Ridge being the number one team in the state. I think our kids are excited about the challenge. The talk around the state is we don't have much of a chance. I think we kind of like being the underdog. Our kids are looking forward to proving they're capable of beating anybody."
A win Wednesday would secure RHS a state tournament berth, as well as a semifinal meeting with the winner of Thursday's EPC-Salem contest at 5:30 p.m. Friday. The third place contest is set for 1:30 p.m. Saturday with the final at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Coming off a draining win over Riverside late Wednesday night in the second round of the district tournament, the Cougars were already facing a stacked deck when they met up with host BIC in the first boys' game of the evening Thursday. RHS kept pace with the more fresh Mustangs through the first quarter, but early foul trouble mixed with natural fatigue to slow the Cougars later, allowing BIC to build a big lead en route to a 63-40 Rector loss.
Seniors Reed Weber and Alec Scott were hit with two personal fouls each in the first five minutes of the contest, requiring RHS to look elsewhere for scoring. Senior Adam Dinkins put together a solid opening frame, burying a three-pointer, a transition layup and sinking two of three at the stripe to lead RHS to a 14-12 advantage at period's end. Sophomores Danny Hager and Garrett Buck added a trey and an interior bucket, respectively, to help the Cougar cause.
In the second stanza, the Cougars made just one field goal, a jumper from Dinkins, with the rest of the team's points coming from the line. Unfortunately, RHS went six of 12 from the free throw line during the key stretch. BIC outscored the Cougars 24-8 in the frame to move ahead, 36-22, at intermission.
Rector continued to fall behind in the third, trailing 53-31 heading into the fourth quarter.
Dinkins led the Cougars with 20 points in the loss. Also scoring for RHS were Nick Hardin 4, Buck 4, Weber 4, Hager 3, Scott 2, Lawson Ford 2 and Chito Martinez 1.
Adam Carmichael and Austin Pike finished with 18 and 17 points, respectively, for BIC. Seth Eatmon added 10 points for the hosts.
RHS had three players chosen as 2A-3 All-Conference Team selections: Adam Dinkins, Reed Weber and Alec Scott. Weber also received All-State honors, a high honor for the skilled senior.
The Cougars purchased their tickets to the regional tournament with a 72-63 victory over Riverside Wednesday night.
RHS took a 23-15 lead in the first quarter, on the strength of a powerful start by Weber. Weber notched 10 points in the first two minutes of the contest, burying two treys, scoring in the post and hitting two at the line to make a statement in the early going. He would add another trey later in the frame. Scott made five of six free throws and scored on an offensive rebound, while Dinkins added a three in the opening stanza.
"We came out in that first quarter and made a statement," Mills said. "I don't think we could have played much better on offense than we did early on."
RHS extended its lead to double figures in the second quarter, with solid output from the bench. Junior Landen Crancer sank a triple and added a pair of free throws in addition to a layup and free throw from sophomore Lawson Ford and a freebie from Hardin. A Dinkins jumper and a pair of free throws by Scott rounded out the Cougar scoring in the frame, which saw Rector take a 36-24 advantage into intermission.
Rector led by as many as 21 in the third, with Weber, Scott and Dinkins sharing the scoring duties. The Cougars led by 17, 52-35, heading into the fourth stanza.
Riverside began to surge back midway through the final frame as the game became more physical. The Rebels hit four three-pointers in just over two minutes to come within seven points, 67-60, with only 45 seconds left on the clock. Riverside added a bucket inside and a free throw, but RHS got two free throws each from Scott and Dinkins and one from Weber, all in the final 18 seconds, to preserve the victory.
Weber led the Cougars with 28 points and 14 rebounds on the night. Scott finished with 20 points, including an 18 for 21 effort at the stripe. Dinkins added 15 in the win. Also scoring for RHS were Crancer 5, Ford 3 and Hardin 1.
The trio if Stone, Waugh and Austin had 18, 14 and 10, respectively, for Riverside.