Cougars Down EPC in Overtime, Fall to Hounds

Thursday, February 5, 2015
Mason McCluskey handles the opening tip for the Cougars in Friday night's homecoming win over EPC.(photo courtesy Stephen Crancer)

In what fans were calling one of the best games in the Rector gymnasium in recent memory, the Cougars eased past East Poinsett County, 53-52 in overtime, in a Friday night homecoming contest. Then, on Tuesday evening the RHS boys dropped a 19 point loss to Marmaduke.

Homecoming vs EPC

EPC, one of the leaders in District 2A-3, came into the game heavily favored. But the Cougars played one of their best games of the year to upset the Warriors and move to 12-12 overall and 6-8 in conference play.

Rector's Huston Highfill takes an EPC Warrior to the baseline in action Friday night.(TD photo/Ron Kemp)

It was the fourth straight conference win for the Cougars.

"We really put the pieces together," Rector coach Matt Mills said of the game. "I feel like it was the most complete game we've played this year.

"Everybody stepped up and played their role for us, which is necessary to beat a top-caliber team like that."

Mills said his team struggled a bit offensively in the first quarter and fell behind, but the defense held strong and gave the offensive effort some time to finally start clicking.

Five three-pointers by Lawson Ford in the game and three more by Nick Hardin proved crucial in the Cougar upset. Danny Hager also added a trey.

"Lawson and Nick both shot well and made big plays," the coach said. "Everybody else fulfilled their role in the second half.

EPC led 18-14 after one quarter and 25-20 at halftime.

The Cougars really put it together in the third quarter, outscoring their foes 15-7 to take a 35-32 lead heading into the final eight minutes.

Two free throws by Chito Martinez early in the fourth period gave the Cougars a 37-32 lead before the Warriors started chipping away. EPC eventually took a 44-41 advantage before Ford hit a crucial three-pointer to tie it.

Hager then nailed a free throw and Hardin hit two more with 43.8 seconds left to give Rector a 47-44 lead.

Clay Malone hit a clutch three-pointer for EPC to tie the game and send it into overtime.

EPC opened the overtime scoring with a free throw, but Hager put Rector on top with a basket.

Garrett Buck drilled two free throws with 51.3 seconds left to put the Cougars up 51-48. Malone countered with a free throw to cut it to one.

Ford then dropped in two free throws with 17.6 showing to put the Cougars ahead 53-49, but Dez Barnes hit a three-pointer with 4.6 seconds left to close it to one.

Beck was fouled and missed both free throws. EPC's long three-pointer at the buzzer failed and the Cougars had the big upset.

Ford led the scoring with 19 points and Hardin added 13. Also in the points column for Rector were Hager 9, Martinez 4 and Highfill 2. Malone paced EPC with 14 and Quinn Young added 10.

A crucial aspect of the game were the seven of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter and overtime by Rector, while EPC hit only five of 12.

"We finally have settled in and developed an identity and are doing a good job of putting it into practice," Mills said.

Rector played very well in the junior high game, but fell 47-43 to the visitors. Quarter leads for the Junior Warriors were 15-9, 21-19 and 32-29.

Mills pointed out that this was an EPC team which led his squad 40-10 at halftime in an earlier game. "I think our junior high team is finally starting to believe we can win," he said.

Sam Simmons poured in 24 points to pace Rector and Kirk Beshears added 14. Hunter McNeely notched three points and Kale Hardin added two.

Jase Whitfield scored 23 for EPC and Isaiah Taylor added 11.

Win Over Cross County

Rector had a strong defensive effort in a win Tuesday night over Cross County at home.

Quarter leads for the Cougars were 8-7, 24-16 and 31-21 on the way to a 41-29 victory.

Rector got scoring from seven players -- Ford 13, Hardin 9, Hager 6, Highfill 5, Buck 3, Martinez 2 and Landen Crancer 2. Tye Townsend had eight for Cross County.

"Everybody is taking care of assignments on defense," Mills said. "We held them scoreless for 13 minutes in one stretch."

Rector also won the junior high game, 32-25. Quarter leads were 14-7, 26-7 and 30-16.

Simmons and Beshears led the way with 10 each. McNeely had five points and Conley Lockhart added four. Hunter Like had 12 for Cross County and K.K. Boykin added 10.

The Junior Cougars will take part in the District 2A-3 Tournament which starts Saturday at Rector. There is one boys game and four girls games scheduled on the first day. The tournament runs through next week.

Marmaduke

It was too much Eddie Page for the Rector Cougars on Tuesday night at Marmaduke.

The Greyhound senior scored 32 points to lead his team to a 59-40 conference win. Hayden Winberry notched 14 for the host team.

Rector led 12-9 after one frame, but the Hounds scored 20 in the second period to take a 10-point lead and eased to the win.

Danny Hager with 14 and Lawson Ford with 10 paced Rector.

Marmaduke won the junior boys game, 57-13, as Billy Elder had 17 points and Derek Agee 13. Kirk Beshears scored 10 for Rector.

Rector's seventh grade boys won their game against the Marmaduke team to move to 14-2 for the season.

Rector hosts BIC on Friday for Senior Night.

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