For a time in the first half of Booneville’s regional game against Episcopal last Wednesday, the Bearcats were having trouble with the Wildcats’ style of play, with the result that BHS was down 11 points at one point. But Booneville just continued to play their game and wore down ECS.
Logan Bradley had 18 of his 24 points in the second half and Booneville stamped their ticket to state with a 63-47 win which put them against Mayflower in the semifinals. It was a close game all the way, but the Eagles were able to pull a small margin late in the game and took the 61-55 decision. In the third-place game, the Cats overcame an early flurry of three-pointers by Fountain Lake, shut the Cobras out in the third quarter and closed with a 10-0 run to beat FL for the fourth time this season, 50-36.
As fate would have it, a familiar opponent awaits the 28-3 Bearcats in the first round of the state tournament as Booneville will play Waldron today at 5:30 p.m. in Osceola. The Bulldogs upended Charleston in the semifinals of their regional before falling to Valley Springs in the finals. It will be the third meeting of the season between Booneville and Waldron, with the Cats coming away with a 55-51 win in the finals of Booneville’s tournament and a 61-48 decision in the finals of the Mansfield tournament. The winner plays the survivor of the Drew Central-Rivercrest matchup tomorrow at 8:30.
Bearcats 63 Episcopal 47
Booneville got off to a slow start, with a Blakley Cobb three-point play being the only points for the Cats in the first three minutes. The Wildcats pulled out an 8-3 lead before Cobb and Logan Bradley got Booneville within one, but soon ECS had taken an 18-9 lead. Noah Reyes scored inside but a Chris Smith basket made it 20-11 before Tyler Hall beat the horn with a three from the corner to narrow the lead to six. Grant Goers hit two free throws and followed with a layup to get BHS within 20-18 but Chris Smith and Che Smith led Episcopal on an 11-2 run that made it 31-20. Reyes gave Booneville some momentum going into the break with a couple of putbacks that cut the ECS lead to seven at the half.
The Beatcats made their move in the third quarter as they gradually whittled away at the Wildcats’ advantage. Two Bradley layups and one from Goers got it to 33-30; Episcopal pushed it back to five but Booneville closed the quarter with an 8-2 run. Camryn Lawson converted a three-point play and Nate Riley sank two free throws to give Booneville a 41-39 lead after three. Bradley then completely took over, scoring eight points in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter and also taking a charge. This made it 49-43 and after Chris Smith hit two from the line, the Cats closed it out with a 14-2 blitz, capped by a Cobb dunk while being fouled which resulted in a three-point play.
Bradley connected for 24 points while also having seven rebounds and four blocks, the last of which landed outside the Episcopal three-point line. Goers and Cobb added 10 each, with Lawson dealing out six assists and Goers five. Booneville overcame a 1-13 shooting night from beyond the arc.
Mayflower 61 Bearcats 55
Booneville dominated inside early, as Logan Bradley scored twice and Camryn Lawson once for an early lead. After Mayflower came on to go up by two, Blakley Cobb fired in a three which was followed by layups from Noah Reyes and Nate Riley for a 13-8 Booneville lead. Bradley hit from 12 for 15-10, but MHS scored the last four of the quarter to make it a one-point game after the first quarter. Two Grant Goers free throws made it 17-15 but Mayflower sophomore Tyler Tolliver led his team on a 13-2 run to take a 28-19 lead. Goers countered with a three and two Riley free throws made it a three-point game but the Eagles got it back out to nine; Reyes scored once and Riley twice before Mayflower made it a 35-30 Eagle lead at the half.
A Bradley layup made the deficit three but 6-6 sophomore Braxtyn McCuien scored twice inside to make it a seven-point game. The Cats swiftly pulled the game back even as Cobb followed two free throws with a six-footer; Bradley hit a free throw and Camryn Lawson’s layup tied it at 39. But Tolliver hit a three and drove in for a layup and the lead was five again before Cobb fired in another three, which was countered by Tolliver. McCuien also scored but then Cobb took a charge as the Eagles sought to go up by nine. The senior hit from six and then took another charge at the end of the quarter, with the Cats behind 49-44 after three.
It was not long before the Cats had tied the score once again as Lawson drilled a three-pointer and Goers drove for a layup for 49-49. McCuien converted a three-point play, but Riley fired in a corner three to knot the score at 52. However, Jay Nance put one in from 8 and added a free throw; Booneville had two turnovers and could not take advantage of two missed one-and-ones by Mayflower with the score 55-52. They then had to foul Tolliver who hit both shots, and another turnover led to two Nance free throws. Goers launched a long three to cut it to four but Nance scored on a breakaway to end the game.
Cobb led Booneville with 12 points and blocked four shots; Riley had a nice game with 11 points and Goers scored 10. But the Cats could not overcome 28 combined points from Mayflower’s outstanding sophomores, Tolliver and McCuien. The Eagles shot 53 percent from the field, the best performance by a Bearcat opponent this season.
Bearcats 50 Fountain Lake 36
The Cobras came out red-hot from three-point range, with Jordan Mungle nailing three bonus balls in the first quarter. Ramiro Vasquez and Colton McMullin also added threes, but the Cats stayed in it early behind Grant Goers He had three layups and Blakley Cobb another to counter Fountain Lake’s shooting, then Goers picked off a Cobra pass and dunked at the other end to pull Booneville within 14-10. Mungle replied with the last of his threes but Noah Reyes converted a three-point play, making it 17-13 after one.
Logan Bradley then scored all nine of Booneville’s points in the second quarter, putting the Cats on top 22-18 with three minutes left in the frame. But Mungle threw in his fourth—and what would turn out to be his last—bonus shot and McMullin added a free throw. There was then a confrontation which resulted in Cobb being assessed a technical foul. Mungle put in both free throws and Fountain Lake led 24-22 at halftime.
The Cats completely shut down the Cobras in the third quarter. With Camryn Lawson keeping Mungle in check, Booneville expanded their defense to keep the other shooters at bay. Meanwhile, Lawson dropped a three-pointer to put the Cats on top. Reyes followed with a layup, and Bradley did the same and put in two from the line. Fountain lake failed to score in the quarter and Booneville had a 31-24 advantage going to the fourth. Andrew Overton finally broke the Cobras’ scoreless run but Reyes countered with a layup, and the teams would trade baskets through the early part of the quarter, but Goers’ three-pointer made it 39-32 and he put in a free throw to further expand the lead.
But a Joe Murphy free throw was followed by a McMullin steal and layup. The Cobras made another steal but missed, and the follow was blocked by Cobb. He came back down the floor and converted a three-point play for 43-36 with 1:10 left. On the ensuing play, Bradley rejected a shot, got the rebound and was fouled. The Fountain Lake coach protested too much, was assessed two technical fouls and was ejected. Bradley converted three of the four free throws and Booneville would hit four more in the last seconds for the final margin.
Bradley finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Goers added 13 points, six rebounds and four assists with Cobb and Reyes adding seven each. Cobb also had three blocks as the Cats scored 10 points in the last 70 seconds.