RHS-PHS Showdown a Crowd Pleaser
For the second year in a row the Piggott Mohawks and Rector Cougars met for a late season non-conference showdown on Thursday, Feb. 12. And, this year's pair of games at PHS, which featured the senior girls and senior boys, was much like last year's games at Rector with the visiting girls posting a win while the home boy's squad dropped their contest. To the benefit of the fans from both sides, both games were back-and-forth affairs with exciting finishes.
Prior to the first game the PHS class of 2015 was recognized with senior night activities. The group included basketball players Jacob Wellman, Bailey Pollard, Nick McKinnie, Quest Emerson, Micah Hobbs, Jordan Blascoe, Alexa DeHart, McKenzie Hopkins and Shelby Pruett-Chavez along with Lady Mohawk Manager Caroline Rodery.
With a near-capacity crowd filling the bleachers, the Lady Mohawks and Cougars squared-off in the early game. The contest would prove to be a tight one, with the Rector girls jumping out to the early lead only to see the Piggott squad battle back late to take the win 43-36.
Both teams came out hot in the first quarter of play with the Lady Cougars hitting a couple of big three-pointers, as they jumped to a 10-3 lead. Meanwhile, the Piggott squad responded and attempted to take advantage of their size with plays in the paint. The first quarter ended with the Mohawks enjoying the slimmest of leads at 13-12.
Both teams stepped-up the defense in the second quarter, and both squads scored 9 points in the period, as the home team took a 22-21 lead into the locker room at the half.
But, the Cougars responded to halftime adjustments made by Coach Matt Dean, and outscored their hosts 11-7 in the third to take a 32-29 lead into the fourth. The scoring came on three-point baskets by Marla Crancer, Tori Hill and Brittany Fair while Colby Lynch added two free throws--the only two of the night for the Cougars.
In the final frame Coach Barry DeHart finally got the defensive intensity he had sought from the Piggott girls, as they outscored the Cougars 14-4 down the stretch to take the win. In fact, the only scoring for the Rector girls in the fourth quarter were two Lynch field goals, while Piggott's MaKalia Beck got 7 of her game-high 12 in the frame, and the Mohawk's Devyn Staples added 5 of her 11 points in the pivotal final quarter.
"It was close the entire game, but the last couple of minutes we were fortunate enough to get a couple of steals and pull away for the win," Coach DeHart said of the victory. "We felt like our post people could take it to them inside, and although it took us a couple of quarters to do that we felt like once we did it was a good advantage for us." For DeHart, who has led the squad to a double-digit win season, it offered a great ending for the class of 2015. "It was good to get a win for these seniors in their last home game, and to beat a rival like Rector it's pretty nice," he added.
Hill was top scorer for the Lady Cougars with 9, Fair finished with 8, Crancer had 7, Lynch finished with 6 and Matison Dean and Dominique Coln had 3 each. As a team the Lady Cougars had 8 three-pointers, and were 2 of 3 from the charity stripe with only Lynch attempting free throws.
"I felt like the Piggott defense really took us out of what we wanted to do tonight," Rector Coach Matt Dean observed. "They did a good job of keeping us off-balance, and that number 23 (Beck), we couldn't throw over her or get around her, so I really thought their defense took us out of plan for what we wanted to do."
Dean added he hoped the tight competition would pay dividends in the upcoming postseason. "We played hard, but we've been off a week," he explained. "Hopefully, next week we can take what we didn't do well tonight and improve on it between now and then--play some games next week and advance."
Rounding out the Piggott scoring were Pollard and Emerson with 6 each, while DeHart finished with 4 and Hopkins and Grayson Murray each had a field goal in the win. As a team the Lady Mohawks were 9 of 17 from the free throw line.
In the nightcap Rector's Lawson Ford scored 17 of his game-high 31 in the first quarter, as the Cougars jumped out to an early lead and held-off a late Mohawk surge to post a 52-47 win.
In fact, just moments into the contest Ford hit the first of his 7 three-pointers, as the Rector boys took advantage of a cold Mohawk first quarter and led by as many as 13. It wasn't until late in the quarter that the Tribe began to find their distance, as the Rector squad enjoyed a 21-8 lead after one.
But, the second quarter was a different matter as the host Mohawks continued to battle back on offense, while stepping up the defense and holding the Cougars to just 5 points in the frame. The second was also the only quarter Ford didn't score, as the Cougars were limited to a Danny Hager field goal and free throw and a couple of free throws from Nick Hardin.
As the first half drew to a close Piggott's Peyton Mann hit a three pointer, his only basket of the game, to give the Mohawks a 27-26 lead at intermission.
Halftime adjustments favored the Cougars, as they came out and outscored the Mohawks 13-9 in the frame to take a 39-33 lead into the final frame.
This set-up an exciting fourth quarter, with the two teams swapping baskets and tying several times. Late in the quarter the Cougars attempted to kill the clock with a one-point lead, but a player control foul by Hager turned it back over to the Mohawks.
Moments later Piggott's Quinton Mauldin was whistled on a five second call, giving the ball back to the Cougars with just over 15 seconds to play. After a couple more Rector free-throws, the Mohawks had one last shot as they trailed by three, 50-47. But, Logan Dixon's three-point attempt was off the mark and Ford rebounded and was fouled. Making both, he set the final score at 52-47.
"We went down almost 20 in the first quarter but these guys battled back, that's what this group is, they are a bunch of battlers," Mohawk Coach David Reynolds said of the loss. "Rector made plays down the stretch and we didn't. Ford was hard to handle and we just didn't have an answer for him."
Reynolds also had high praise for the resilience of the Cougars, "you know you just gotta' tip your hat to Coach Mills and this program, he does a good job--and they just made plays and we didn't. But, we had our chances--we had open looks two straight possessions, we had a good look and there was one play where I had a bone-headed play and didn't call a timeout. But, we'll regroup and get ready for Corning."
Along with Ford's 31, Hager added another 10, Garrett Buck had 5, Hardin finished with 4 and Chase Jackson and Landon Crancer had 2 each for the Cougars. The Mohawks were paced by Nicholas Harris with 15, including 10 points in the fourth quarter, while Brayden Brewer had 11, all coming in the first half. Rounding out the Piggott scoring were Dixon with 9, Mauldin with 4, Beau Jett and Mann with 3 each and Nick McKinnie with 2.
"It was your typical Piggott-Rector game, it was exciting and it was close at the end," Rector Coach Matt Mills noted. "It was a game of runs, we went on a big run then they went on a big run. We put on a good push early, and they made a push back. It was definitely nip-and-tuck there toward the end."
Mills also credited Ford for his outstanding performance. "I thought Lawson played incredible, probably his best game of the year. There were times when I felt he single-handedly kept us in it, as the game went on."
But, Mills was also quick to remind his squad the important games are yet to come. "I told my guys despite the fact it's a Piggott-Rector game, which is always big, we need to build confidence rolling into the district tournament and I hope that's what this gives us, the confidence to take on Riverside next week."
All four squads were scheduled to take part in their district tournaments this week, but both tourneys were delayed due to the winter storm. The complete updated schedule for both the Cougars and Mohawks may be found elsewhere in the sports section, and late changes to the schedule will be posted to www.cctimesdemocrat.com