Cougars Post Early Lead, Fall Late to Rebels
It's been a frustrating season for the Rector Cougars and Tuesday night of last week proved to be no exception, as the visiting Riverside Rebels were able to escape with a 54-51 win in conference basketball action.
Chase Jackson's crucial three-pointer gave the Cougars a 51-49 lead with 1:03 showing and the hosts had an opportunity to add to the lead from the free throw line about 20 seconds later.
But a miss on a one-and-one turned the ball back over to Riverside and Chris Sain promptly connected on a three-point play with 25.3 showing to give the Rebels a one-point lead.
Rector had a chance to take the lead on their next possession, but a controversial charging call on the Cougars with six seconds left turned it back over the Riverside. Braden Overman then dropped in two free throws for Riverside to push the lead to three. Rector attempted to tie at the buzzer, but the three-pointer fell short, as did the Cougars' upset bid.
"I thought it was one of our better games of the year," Rector coach Matt Mills said.
"We had a big first half offensively. We have struggled to put points on the board all year, so that was encouraging. But the fact is that, in the end, we just failed to finish. A high school basketball game is 32 minutes long and I thought we won 31 of those minutes, but not the last one."
The Cougars blistered the nets for 10 three-pointers in the game, including the first two shots of the game by Jackson and Lawson Ford.
Rector had leads of 6-0, 8-3 and 13-6 before the Rebels gained their footing and managed to tie the game at 22-all at the end of the first frame. The tone of the game was set as Rector hit four treys in the period to three for the visitors.
The Cougars led by as many as seven in the second period as they continued their torrid shooting.
However, the Rebels hit two three-pointers within the span of six seconds late in the frame to tie it at 35. Jackson then netted a long-range three at the buzzer to put his team up 38-35 heading into intermission.
It was a strange third period after all the scoring in the first two frames. Riverside tied the game on a three-pointer by Gavin Stone and Ford hit a free throw with 5:39 left in the period for the only scoring of the period, as Rector led 39-38 going into the final eight minutes.
The Cougars built a four-point before the Rebels reeled off nine straight to make it 49-44. A free throw by Ford and then three-pointers by Danny Hager and Jackson gave the Cougars a one-point margin before the final heroics by Riverside sealed the win.
Ford finished with 18 points for Rector and Jackson was right behind with 14. Also scoring were Hager 5, Easton Tracy 5, Huston Highfill 5 and Kirk Beshears 2. Stone had 23 for Riverside and Luke Baker added 13.
Rector struggled at the line, hitting only 10 of 18, a key factor in the loss. Riverside was 10-16 at the charity stripe.
"It's been a tough year for our seniors," Mills said, "losing all 10 in football and getting off to a bad start in basketball. I just don't think we were ready early. I think we are getting to the point where we are ready to win. We just have to believe we are ready to win.
"If we can continue to go out and put that same product on the floor, then I think we can have a chance to win a few down the stretch and into the district tournament...in fact, you could see us in a Riverside matchup in the district."
The Cougars will be looking for their third win of the season and second in conference as they face a busy schedule this week. They were slated to travel Tuesday night to Cross County, will host CRA in a make-up game here Thursday and then travel Friday to East Poinsett County. Rector then will host Marmaduke on Tuesday in homecoming festivities that have been rescheduled from last week's bad weather postponements.
The Junior Cougars also let a game against Riverside slip away down the stretch.
Rector led 15-11, 23-22 and 29-27 after the first three quarters, but managed only four points in the fourth quarter in a 41-33 setback.
The hosts were down only 36-33 after a basket by Max Ford with 50 seconds showing, but the Junior Rebels notched the final five points of the game to post the win.
Ford and Trey Rodden paced Rector scoring with 10 points each. Also scoring were Shannon Patterson 7, Ty Jones 3, Parker Bucy 2 and Conly Lockhart 1. Littrell Brown had 14 for Riverside. Both teams were weak at the free throw line, with Rector going 11-23 and Riverside 10-24.
Rector's juniors will have the same schedule in the coming week as the senior high team.