Junior Mohawks Advance, Fall in Conference Semi-Finals

Thursday, February 9, 2017
Junior Mohawk Cooper Harris drives to the basket in first half action against the Riverside Rebels Monday evening at PHS. The Tribe won their first round conference tournament game with the Rebels, and advance to Thursday night's semi-finals at Piggott High.(TD photo/Tim Blair)

The Piggott Junior Mohawks treated the home crowd to an exciting victory in the first round of the 3A-3 conference tournament at PHS Monday night, beating the Riverside Rebels 40-34 to advance to the semi-finals. Thursday they ran into a talented Manila Lions squad, and fell 53-23 and were eliminated.

Following the previous Friday's disappointing home loss to Melbourne, the Tribe's leading scorer, Jackson Henfling, decided to leave the team. This left the squad a bit short-handed in their first round contest, but the team rose to the occasion and handled the talented Rebels in what turned out to be a physical affair.

Getting the start along with fellow freshmen Michael Palmer, Holden Tarno, Ben Holcomb and Cooper Harris, was post man Ryker Little. He also made the most of the chance and had a strong game at both ends of the floor, and led the team in scoring. The long and lanky Little had several blocked shots, and altered several others, as the Rebels were unable to find an answer to his defense.

The game itself was a physical affair, which basically led to a free throw shooting contest in the second half. In fact, the top scorer for the Rebels didn't have a field goal after the first quarter, and Piggott's Michael Palmer scored all nine of his points from the line. All-in-all a total of 33 of the games 74 points came from the charity stripe.

Both teams came out with strong first quarters, as Little scored seven of his team-high 11 in the frame. Meanwhile, Riverside's Gage Crews scored eight as the two teams stood knotted at 12-12 after one.

The second quarter was a different matter, thanks to the hustle of the Mohawk defense and Little's huge presence in the paint. As a result the Mohawks took the quarter 9-3, as they enjoyed a 21-15 lead at the break.

The third quarter was also a low-scoring affair, puncuated by turnovers and trips to the free throw line. Amid the chaos, the Rebels outscored the Mohawks 9-8 in the frame with each team only managing one two-point field goal in the period--giving the Tribe a 29-24 advantage going into the fourth.

Down the stretch the two teams continued to visit the free throw line frequently, and along the way Holcomb fouled-out after picking up several in the first half. Late in the contest the Rebel's Demo Bowers also fouled-out, and several others were playing with four.

During the fourth quarter the Mohawks scored 11 points, with nine of those from the stripe, while the Rebels scored eight of their 10 in the frame from the line to set the final.

Afterward, first year coach Medlen talked about the effort and unique situation.

"You know, we've been coming through some different trials as a team and they came together," he noted. "It was a game that we felt like we could have played better at, but with coming through some different trials we've been through as a team we played well."

In addition to the 11 points from Little and 9 from Palmer, the Tribe got another 9 from Harris, 6 from Tarno and Holcomb finished with 5 in the win. As a team the Mohawks were 18 of 28 from the free throw line while the Rebels converted on 15 of their 25 attempts.

Crews led all scorers with 14 for the Rebels and Bowers was also in double figures with 10 points in the loss.

"They did what they had to do as a team to get the win, and that's what it's about--it's not an individual effort, it's a team effort and they all came together and got us the win," Medlen added of his junior squad.

With the win the junior squad advances to the semi-finals of the conference tourney being played at Piggott High School and a second round game with the Junior Lions. Manila advanced with a win over the Corning Bobkittens Monday night in the late contest.

Thursday night the Manila Lions handed the young Mohawks a loss, and ended their season in the second round. Complete details may be found in the Feb. 15, edition of the CCTD.

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