Rector Boys Split Games in Regional
The Rector Cougars were 2-1 in the 1A Region 2 tournament at Calico Rock High School last week. The RHS boys downed Mammoth Spring in the first round to advance, and earn a berth in the 1A state tourney, Thursday evening by a score of 49-37. Friday evening they faced the Bay Yellowjackets for the second week in a row, falling 78-46 to move into Saturday's third-fourth place game. In an exciting contest Saturday afternoon, the Rector boys beat Ridgefield Christian 66-64 in overtime to secure a third place finish.
Rector drew Mammoth Spring as their first round regional opponent at Calico Rock, a team which stood at 24-9 on the season. With little regard to the Bear's reputation, or record, the Cougars battled from behind to take the win by 12 points.
Mammoth Spring came out of the locker room hot in the first round game, as they sprinted to an 18-11 lead by the end of the first quarter. The Cougars increased the defensive pressure in the second, as the two teams played to an 8-8 tie in the frame, giving the Bears a 26-19 halftime advantage.
Employing a slow-down game, both squads scored in single figures in the third quarter, with Rector edging Mammoth Spring 8-5, as they cut the lead to 31-27 entering the fourth.
Down the stretch the Cougars stepped-up the defensive pressure, while getting a big quarter from Cody Ails, as they took the frame 22-6 and secured the win.
Kirk Beshears led all scorers for the Cougars with 21 points, including 8 points in the first quarter. Ails and Max Ford had 8 points each, Kale Hardin had 4 points off the bench from the free-throw line, Easton Tracy and Hunter McNeeley finished with 3 points each and Sam Simmons had 2.
As a team the Cougars were 10 of 25 from the free throw line, while the Bears only visited the charity strip twice, and were 0 for 2. Top scorer for Mammoth Spring was Logan Skaggs with 14 points while Sagen Godwin had 10 in the loss.
"In the first half I thought they shot incredibly well, but I didn't feel like they could shoot it like that the whole game and luckily they didn't," Cougar Coach Matt Mills said of the win. "I knew from the looks we were getting in the first half that it was just a matter of time before some of them went down. I felt we were getting the best looks we could get, they just simply weren't going in the hole."
Despite trailing at the break, Coach Mills told his squad they would stay the course.
"I told them at halftime, that's what we've done all year and that's what we do. We're going to continue to shoot the three and you just have to believe it's going to go in--and luckily, enough of them did," he offered of the second half comeback.
With only two fouls called on the Cougars in the first half, Mills was also able to increase the defensive intensity in the second. "We finally got after them a bit defensively. I challenged them at halftime and said, hey, if you want to win you better step it up and they did," he added. "I think we only gave up 11 points in the second half."
Coach Mills also pointed to the play of Beshears at both ends of the floor as a key to the win.
"He's always on the boards, I think he's averaging about nine rebounds a game and for a guy who can't jump over a phone book that's pretty good." he added with a smile.
The squad also got a big game from junior Hardin, although he only scored a handful of points. "That's the best game Kale Hardin has played all year, making free throws, finishing at the rim. Those are things he's done all year in practice, but he hadn't put it on the floor until tonight," Mills added."You are not going to out-work him, not matter how big or how strong you are you can't out-work him."
The team also got a late shot in the arm from freshman Max Ford, off the bench.
"He's done that all year. That's what Max is, he's fearless and he's a sparkplug. When I feel like the tide is turning on us a little bit I'm quick to grab Max and shove him in, because he's gonna' make something happen," Mills offered.
The win over Mammoth Spring earned the Cougars a spot in the semi-finals on Friday night, and a re-match with Bay.
Facing the Yellowjackets for the second time in eight days, the Cougars took on Bay Friday night in the regional semi's. Perhaps a bit flat after their emotional first round game, the Rector boys were unable to slow the 'Jackets down in the first quarter as they scored the first 16 points.
Nolen Smith got a trey for Bay to start the contest, then scored another three-pointer and a field goal before the Cougars could answer.
Simmons broke the drought for Rector to move to 16-2, with the Cougars going on a 6-0 run to cut the lead to 16-8. As they had in the earlier meeting, the Yellowjackets regained control a short time later, taking a 22-9 lead by the end of the first.
Bay continued to maintain the edge at both ends of the floor into the second quarter, scoring the first six points of the frame to take a commanding 28-9 advantage. Dustin Utley added nine points for the 'Jackets in the second, as they extended the lead to 49-20 by intermission. As for the Cougars, foul trouble hampered Beshears, as he sat much of the first half with three personnels. In his absence, Tracy picked up some of the slack for the Cougars, scoring 9 of his 18 points in the game in the first two quarters.
The third quarter also went to the Yellowjackets, as they extended their lead to 69-33 by the end of three. With the clock running in the fourth, Bay cruised to the win by a final of 78-46.
In addition to 18 points from Tracy, the Cougars got 6 points from Beshears, 5 from Ty Jones, 4 from McNeeley 3 each from Colton Lindsey and Evan Dooley, 2 each from Hardin and Simmons and 1 from Ford. The 'Jackets were paced by 23 from Smith, while Utley finished with 15 and Taylor Layne had 15.
As a team, the Cougars were a dismal 5 of 13 from the line with 6 three-point baskets, while Bay was 12 of 15 from the line with 8 treys.
The Cougars returned to the Harold Ray Jeffery Gymnasium at Calico Rock High School on Saturday for a mid-day tip with familiar foe Ridgefield Christian in the third-fourth place seeding game. Having lost to the Warriors twice early in the season the Rector boys were primed for payback, and the intensity was evident from the start.
RC, with a distinct height advantage, controlled the opening tip-off but couldn't capitalize on their first trip down the floor. The Cougars also failed to score on their first chance, as Hardin came up short and the rebound went to the Warriors. At the other end Tracy got a block, leading to a Beshears jumper for the first score of the game as Rector led 2-0. Ails got the steal on the next possession for RC, but Simmons was called for a travel as he nailed the three-ball. Will Scholtens answered at the other end with a trey for the Warriors, as the two squads battled into the first quarter.
Simmons responded with field goal and a three-pointer in the first, and Beshears added a trey to his tally, as the two squads pulled to an 11-11 tie after one.
The second quarter was much the same, as neither team could gain an advantage. The Cougars got baskets from Conly Lockhart and Ford off the bench, a trey Tracy and field goals by Simmons and Beshears as they hung with the Warriors. As for Ridgefield Christian, they had the chance to take the lead as they were only 4 for 8 from the free throw line in the quarter, as the two teams stood tied at 22-22 at the half.
The Warriors pulled ahead in the third, getting 6 in the quarter from Alex Burnett and outscoring the Cougars 19-14 in the frame. Rector was consistent though, as Ails, Ford and Tracy all hit three-pointers, while Beshears was held to a free throw in the period. As a result the Warriors took a 39-34 advantage into the fourth quarter.
In the final frame Beshears stepped-up at both ends of the floor, scoring 8 points in the quarter, pulling down several rebounds and getting a couple of steals. He was also 5 for 5 at the free-throw line, while Simmons added another 5 in the quarter, Ails added a trey and Tracy a deuce as the Cougars tied the game at 53-53 at the end of regulation.
In the overtime period Beshears was a perfect 6 for 6 from the charity stripe, Ails added another three-ball and Simmons had a field goal and was 2 for 2 at the stripe in sealing the win.
The Warriors did have their chances though, despite falling behind by nine in OT. They got two big three-pointers from Jackson Thompson, and despite a couple of Beshears free throws, were able to pull to within five points. Coming off two missed free throws by Ails, they added another trey to pull to within two points with under five seconds to play. As a result, Beshears held the ball out of bounds until the clock expired and the Cougar win was preserved at 66-64.
"I tell you the thing I was most proud of was the way we just kept nipping away at them and fighting," Coach Mills said of the win. "I think we got down around seven there in the fourth and it looked pretty grim, and earlier in the season we wouldn't have done that. But we just kept clawing our way back into it and when you do that good things tend to happen."
Beshears led all scorers with 23 and was 11 of 13 from the line, Simmons finished with 16, Tracy was also in double figures with 10, Ails had 9, Ford finished with 5, Lockhart had 2 points and Hardin finished with a key free-throw in the win. As a team the Cougars were 17 of 21 from the line, while the Warriors converted on 10 of 15 trips to the line.
RC was paced on the night by Thompson with 15, while Burnett and John Scholten had 13 each.
"Their length always gives up match-up problems, but we seemed to find a way to get enough rebounds to win," Mills concluded.