After taking a win over Paris last Monday night, the Booneville Bearcats came up short of their third straight trip to regionals with a 63-50 loss to eventual tournament champion Atkins at the 4-3A District tournament in Lamar last Tuesday.
They still finish with a record of 15-13 for their fourth straight winning season, a feat matched at any level of Booneville basketball only by the LadyCats from 1984-88. The Cats have won 80 games in the last four seasons.
The girls, after leading Two Rivers for most of Monday night’s game, faltered at the end and also saw their season come to a close with a 57-53 setback. Still the LadyCats showed marked improvement in coach Tim Goers’ first season at the helm, getting to double figures in wins (12-16) for the first time since 2007-08.
Bearcats 54 Paris 37
Paris brought up a number of freshmen off their district runner-up team and one of them, Sam Muldrow, scored their first three points. The Cats countered with Blake Jones and Austin Hill each hitting a three-pointer to go up 12-6 before the Eagles scored the last two baskets of the period. Booneville made their move with a 15-2 run in the second quarter; Andrew Mattson had a basket and a pair of free throws before Jacob Herrera dropped three three-pointers in a row for 27-13. Paris fought back with two bonus balls of their own from freshmen Juan Santos and Jesse Wells, but the Bearcats still led 28-22 at halftime.
Booneville couldn’t shake the Eagles again until midway through the third quarter, when Jones hit two threes and Mason Goers another for a 41-28 Bearcat lead. Paris battled back within 10 after three periods but Mattson hit a three early in the fourth quarter and BHS finally put it away with a 6-0 run, coming on a basket and a pair of free throws by Herrera and two from the line by Zac Costa.
Herrera scored 17 points and handed out four assists for the Cats; Mattson scored 11 and made six steals with Jones also scoring 11 points. The Bearcats overcame a Paris rebounding advantage by being deft with the ball when they had it; there were 14 assists in the 18 field goals made by Booneville.
Two Rivers 57 LadyCats 53
Leigh Swint was in the starting lineup, the first time a freshman had ever started for a Booneville senior high basketball team. Two Rivers jumped to a 6-0 lead but Baylee Moses cut that in half with a three and Swint’s layup made it 6-5. Swint and Joleigh Tate, though, were both forced to the bench early with foul trouble, but after TR grabbed a 9-5 lead, Heaven Sanchez scored twice around a Lindsay Wallace layup and Booneville led 11-9 after one. Karmen Kent, in for Tate, cleaned up a Booneville miss and Shelby Posey fired in a three-pointer to start a 11-0 run that was finished with a three and free throw from Moses. A third Moses three-ball made it 25-11 and after the Lady Gators got within 10, Kent scored Booneville’s last six points of the half for a 31-18 lead at the break.
The teams traded threes to start the third quarter and after Two Rivers made it 34-24 with a Kaitlin Hunnicutt layup, the hot-shooting Moses dropped two more threes and BHS led 40-24. But Somer Frost’s bonus ball started a 11-2 Lady Gator run to end the third quarter as her layup narrowed the lead to 42-35. Two Rivers got within three before Kent made a free throw which was followed by a Swint three-point play for 46-39. Posey then hit two from the line to counter a Two Rivers basket but a Hunnicutt three-point play later tied it at 48.
Moses then hit two from the line, but Frost tied it and Hunnicutt gave TR their first lead since midway of the first quarter. Moses immediately countered with her sixth three-ball of the night and then Posey took a charge against Hunnicutt. But Booneville couldn’t take advantage and Frost hit two free throws. Booneville lost the ball in a mad scramble at midcourt where Hunnicutt dove under Moses but no foul was forthcoming. The Lady Gators also turned it over, but after a missed shot and an offensive rebound, Moses was adjudged to have gone over and back. Booneville couldn’t get to the Lady Gators for a foul until 3.4 seconds remained, A second-shot miss left the door cracked a bit, but the ensuing inbounds pass was picked off by Frost who scored as time expired.
Moses ended her career with a 21-point night including six three-pointers, matching her effort against the Lady Gators from earlier in the season and tying the team record for the fourth time. Kent added nine points; Posey had 8 points and 11 rebounds and Sanchez scored six and had nine rebounds.
Atkins 63 Bearcats 50
The Red Devils tried to score straight from the tip but an alert Zac Costa took a charge. Atkins, though, did score the first six points of the game before an Andrew Mattson bucket put Booneville on the board. But with Josh Carpenter knocking down a pair of threes and Atkins limiting BHS to just one more basket in the quarter, it was 16-4 after one. Mattson hit four from the line and Mason Goers got a layup as the Cats tried to fight back, but a Mike Dunagan three-point play made it 21-10. The Cats again battled back and got it within five after an Austin Hill three-point play, but after the teams traded baskets twice a Red Devil three at the buzzer put them on top 28-20.
Atkins went up by 11 early in the third quarter; a Jacob Herrera layup got it back to eight but Booneville was having trouble scoring inside because of the presence of 6-7 Eli Roberson, who blocked six shots on the night. Two Dunagan baskets and one by Donovan Nooner made it 39-27 and the Devils led by 11 after three. Mattson ate into the lead with two free throws but Roberson scored five of the next seven points to make it 46-30. Booneville could do no better than trade baskets for the next couple of minutes, and Roberson converted a three-point play and added another basket for 55-36. Booneville continued to fight back, getting a three and a two from London Lee and good hustle play by Evan Escobedo and Rocky Ross, but it was not to be.
Mattson closed his career with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds, and set the season free-throw accuracy record with 78.8% from the line, beating Sam Bartlett’s old mark by half a percent. Escobedo scored eight points, with Hill and Goers getting six each. Herrera had a miserable shooting night with 2-for-13, a microcosm of the Cats’ struggles from the field as they only shot 34 percent. Costa made three steals, enabling him to tie Grant Goers’ record of 63 from last season in that category.