Cougars Doomed by Fourth Quarter Stumble in NEA

Friday, January 1, 2016
Rector's Lawson Ford looks for an open teammate during tournament action last Wednesday at the NEA Invitational Tournament at the Convocation Center in Jonesboro. (TD photo/Anthony Cossey)

Rector (1-10) kept the game close for three quarters before Marked Tree (8-3) used a 24-6 fourth quarter to pull away for a 66-41 win in the opening round of the Division I boys' bracket.

Danny Hager got Rector on the board first with a basket inside to make it 2-0 Cougars. Marked Tree got back to back three-pointers from Colby Malone and D'Angelo Griffin to give the Indians a 6-2 lead. Lawson Ford canned a three-pointer from the top of the key to cut the lead to 6-5 only to see Tirek Young convert an old-school three-point play and Markel Perry hit one of two free throws for the Indians to make the score 10-5 Marked Tree. Ford made one of two free throws for Rector before LaQuentin Miles hit a three-pointer for Marked Tree making the score 13-6 Indians with 3:29 left in the quarter. Ford and Hager hit back to back three-pointers for the Cougars cutting the lead to 13-12 before Marked Tree got an inside basket from Griffin and a tip-in basket from Julian Booker at the buzzer to give the Indians a 17-12 lead at the end of one.

Nick Andrews scored back to back buckets for Marked Tree early in the second quarter to push the Indians' lead to 21-12. Ford drilled his third three-pointer of the first half for Rector to make the score 21-15 Marked Tree. Griffin scored inside for Marked Tree and Huston Highfill got a stick back basket for Rector making the score 23-17 Indians. Perry hit two free throws thanks to a lane violation on the Cougars, Andrews hit two free throws and Griffin grabbed hit own rebound and hit a jumper to push Marked Tree's lead to 29-17 with 2:03 left before halftime. Hager hit a jumper, followed that with a three-pointer and then hit another jumper for the Cougars to cut the lead to 29-24 as the first half ended.

Ford scored off an offensive rebound and Highfill got a basket down low as the Cougars cut the lead to 29-28 early in the third quarter. Marked Tree answered with a three-pointer from Malone and a jumper from Griffin to make the score 34-28 Indians. Hager hit a three-pointer for Rector from the right wing before Miles it a jumper for Marked Tree to make the score 36-31 Indians with 3:19 left. Highfill and Garrett Buck made back to back baskets for Rector to make the score 36-35 Marked Tree only to see Miles hit two free throws before scoring an inside basket and then hitting a running jumper to give the Indians a 42-35 lead going to the final quarter.

Marked Tree opened the fourth with an 11-0 run to push their lead to 53-35. Andrews converted a conventional three-point play, Malone hit a jumper before Griffin and Miles scored on back to back fast break lay ups. Paul Coleman scored inside before Ford hit a runner for the Cougars stopping the run and making the score 53-37 Marked Tree. Malone scored inside for the Indians and Easton Tracy hit two free throws for the Cougars to make the score 55-39 Marked Tree with 3:35 left in the game. Coleman and Miles got easy baskets for Marked Tree off the fast break and Perry added two free throws making the score 61-39 Marked Tree. Chase Jackson scored inside for the Cougars before the Indians got a Coleman score inside and Shy Anderson drilled a three-ball to set the final score at 66-41 Marked Tree.

"I thought the kids battled, especially in the second half as we cut the lead to one there in the third," Rector head coach Matt Mills said. "We didn't execute will and out margin for error is very slim. We have to make shots and that is something we didn't do down the stretch," Mills said.

Hager led the Cougars in scoring with 15 points as Ford followed with 14 points. Highfill chipped in six points as Buck, Tracy and Jackson each netted two points each.

"I thought we came out sluggish and they have been from having a couple days off or playing in this be arena," Marked Tree head coach Barbara Wilburn said after the game. "We played okay but we'll have to play a lot better on Monday," Wilburn added.

Miles led four Indians in double digit scoring with 15 points. Andrews and Griffin each scored 11 points and Malone tossed in ten points. Coleman netted six points, Perry added five points as Young and Anderson each had three points and Booker finished with two points.

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