Cougars Fall to Dermott in State Tourney

Thursday, March 2, 2017
Easton Tracy drives aggressively to the basket in state tournament action against Dermott.(TD photo/Ron Kemp)

Rector coach Matt Mills discussed defensive strategy prior to his team's opening round game Monday against Dermott in the Class 1A State Tournament at Mt. Ida.

Mills said it would be difficult to shut down both lane penetration and outside shooting against a talented Rams team. He concluded that stopping the inside game probably would be the preferred option. "If they are able to hit the three-pointer, we could be in trouble," Mills said.

As it turned out, the Rams were deadly from behind the arc in the game, hitting 10 treys in a 55-38 victory over the Cougars that was indeed closer than the final score indicated.

Particularly telling was a stretch from late in the third quarter through the early part of the fourth in which Dermott nailed four consecutive three-pointers to start pulling away in what had been a closely-contested game.

Dermott had 27 points at halftime and moved to 42 on the strength of five three-pointers.

Rector appeared to be poised for a potential upset as Dermott's inside star, Xavier Hall, picked up his fourth foul at the 3:38 mark of the third quarter and the Cougars' Cody Ails dropped in a three-pointer to make it 30-30. The large Rector contingent reacted loudly as the tide seemed to be turning.

But Theroux Danzy, Ericken Johnson and Dwalyn Jones all connected on long three-pointers to put the Rams up 39-30.

Max Ford then hit a trey for Rector, but Danzy quickly followed for Dermott to make it 42-33 and the the Rams never looked back in advancing to the next round of the tournament.

Rector was forced to foul late in the game and the Rams were able to cash in and widen the final margin in what was a competitive contest most of the way.

Dermott set the tone with three treys in the first quarter, with a long one from Danzy at the buzzer giving the Rams a 15-13 lead. Ails made two of his five three-pointers in the period as the Cougars quickly established they would be competitive in the game.

The Rams threatened to pull away by taking a 27-18 lead late in the second, but a basket by Sam Simmons and a free throw and a field goal by Kirk Beshears closed the gap to 27-23 at the halftime break.

Rector tied the game at 27 at the 4:42 mark of the third period on a three-pointer by Ails, but Dermott quickly countered with a trey by Hall.

The same pattern then happened again as Dermott just seemed always to have the answer from long-range.

"I thought one of the keys to the game was the way they quickly came back with three-pointers both times we tied it in the second half," Mills said. "I think if we could have ever gotten the lead they would have panicked."

"I think we played extremely well," Mills said. "There is no question that we showed we belonged in the state tournament. We followed our game plan and we handled their pressure very well all night."

Ails led Rector scoring with 15 points, all coming from beyond the arc. Beshears was right behind with 14. Also scoring were Simmons 4, Ford 3 and Easton Tracy 2. Danzy led all scorers with 24 points and Hall added 12 (including three dunks).

Dermott was 10-20 from three-point range, while Rector hit six treys. The Cougars were only 4-11 at the free throw line and the Rams were 5-11.

The Cougars finished 15-17 for the season after starting the year 3-9. "I don't think I've ever had a team improve as much from November to February," Mills said. "It took awhile for them to figure out their roles and how to play together."

Rector loses two seniors -- Easton Tracy and Cody Ails. "They will be very hard to replace," the coach said, "but I think we have an opportunity to be better next year with everyone that is coming back.

"Maybe the best thing that happened is we got a taste of the state tournament this year and I hope we can be a team on a mission next year to get back here and make a run."

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