PC edges Purdy to win SW Holiday Tournament

Thursday, January 8, 2009
Down to the final seconds Purdy senior Blake Williams brings the ball down the court and past a Pierce City defender. Purdy fought hard to win the Southwest Holiday Tournament championship but eventually fell 63-61 to finish second. Photo by Linda Patton

By Lee Stubblefield

The Pierce City Eagles prevailed over the Purdy Eagles, 63-61, to win the championship game of the Southwest Holiday Tournament on Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008. The game featured nine ties and six lead changes and wasn't decided until the final seconds of the game.

Pierce City's boys shrugged off their #5 seeding by the tournament committee and proceeded to upset the #4, #1 and #2 seeds in succession to earn the championship trophy.

The Pea Ridge (Ark.) Blackhawks overwhelmed Eureka Springs (Ark.) in the third place game, 82-56, fueled by Kip Kelly's 46 points. East Newton downed Southwest 59-55 for fifth place, barely withstanding a torrid comeback by the home team in the final minutes. Wheaton and Exeter battled through barren scoring stretches, with the Bulldogs taking the seventh place game, 40-32

After an opening Saturday of expected blowouts and one upset in the seedings, the tournament resumed play on Monday with a pair of consolation contests. After being the whipping boy for top-seeded Pea Ridge on Saturday, the Exeter Tigers played much better against fourth-seeded East Newton but fell to the Patriots, 75-49.

Exeter held its own through the opening four minutes and only trailed 11-9. But East Newton forged an 8-0 run to finish the quarter up by 10, and the halftime margin was the same, with East Newton leading 34-24.

The Tigers pulled within 8 points at the 5:19 mark of the third period, but the Patriots seized control of the contest and pushed the lead to as many as 32 points before Exeter scored the final 6 points.

Riley Brown, of East Newton, led all scorers with 35 points. Zach Wubker scored 18, and Keith Hayworth added 11 for Exeter.

Southwest and Wheaton, of the Ozark 7 Conference, squared off in the other consolation bracket game with the Trojans winning 74-37. Southwest capitalized on seven first-quarter Wheaton turnovers to take an 18-9 lead after the first eight-minute stanza. The Bulldogs charitably handed over possession nine more times in the second quarter, and Southwest had a commanding 39-17 lead at halftime.

While the turnovers slowed in the third quarter, the Southwest scoring pace did not, and Wheaton faced a 57-26 deficit with one quarter remaining. At 6:42 of the fourth period, Jason Horn cleared his bench and the Trojan JV players logged some tournament minutes in the victory.

Levi Roberts led the Trojans with his 19 points. Matthew Whittington scored 13, including four buckets in the second quarter and a rare three-pointer in the third. Blake Dilbeck scored 12 points for Wheaton.

The Purdy Eagles flirted with disaster early but recovered to defeat Eureka Springs in their semi-final matchup, 63-48.

The high octane offense of Eureka Springs threatened to run the Eagles off the court in the first half. A 21-11 Highlander lead at the end of the first quarter grew to a 28-13 margin when Taylor Williams launched his second trey of the game with 6:24 on the second quarter clock.

Chris Kennedy immediately called timeout and huddled his team for a strategy session. Something from that gathering clicked, as the Eagles returned to the fray with new sense of urgency.

Blake Williams stroked a three-pointer for Purdy on the first possession following the time out, and Eric King responded with a lay-up for Eureka.

Trailing 30-18 with 4:38 left in the first half, Purdy's pressure defense fueled an 11-0 run over the next three and a half minutes, and the Eagles reached halftime trailing by only 3 points at 32-29. Seven different players scored for Purdy in that fateful second quarter.

The Eagles took their first lead at 35-34 early in the third quarter with extra-value bombs by Blake Williams and Mason Roller. Tyler McBride regained the lead for Eureka with his trey to put the Highlanders up 37-35.

With the game tied at 39, Williams missed from long range, but Roller muscled up for the rebound, missed and then connected on his second effort to score. Roller was fouled by King in the process and canned the free throw for a 42-39 Purdy advantage.

The Eagles led 46-41 after three periods and blew the game open with a 16-4 run in the fourth quarter. Purdy's biggest lead of the game came when Roller deftly poked the ball loose and passed ahead to Williams for the easy score, and the Eagles were in command at 62-45 with just under three minutes remaining.

The Eagles provided a little comic relief in the final minute. With Eureka's pressure threatening a 10-second violation, Kennedy attempted to call a timeout from the bench but no officials witnessed his animated signal. He was finally awarded the timeout, just as Willliams broke through the defense and was sailing for an uncontested layup.

Roller led Purdy with 23 points, and Williams scored 15. Williams' biggest contribution was his defensive effort, shutting down Taylor Williams completely in the second half and limiting him to only 6 points after the Highlander guard had scored 35 against Southwest on Saturday.

Eric King scored 13 to lead Eureka Springs.

"It was a classic game between the seventh and eighth seeds," Wheaton coach Rusty Roe said following his team's mistake-plagued victory over Exeter. When asked if there was a point in the game when both teams had more turnovers than points, Roe deadpanned, "Yes, at the end of the game."

It wasn't quite that bad, but Wheaton did win the turnover battle 17-13. However, the Bulldogs responded when Exeter had an early 13-7 lead and quelled any upset notions with a decisive 14-0 run to start the second quarter. The Tigers only managed one basket in that quarter and trailed 24-15 at halftime.

Not to be outdone, the Bulldogs only managed a James Musick basket in the entire third quarter, and Exeter crawled back into contention at 26-22 behind Ryan Odenbrett's 6 points in the period. The Tigers pulled within 3 on a Justin Brattin free throw early in the fourth, but Wheaton pulled away to seal the win, 40-32.

Dilbeck led Wheaton with 10 points, and Wubker had 12 for Exeter.

Southwest's up and down season continued with the inconsistency of the Trojans on display for three quarters of play.

The Trojans turned a 9-10 first quarter deficit into a 21-13 lead on the strength of long range baskets by Levi Roberts, Josh Hartin and Austin Rettman. But the Patriots responded with their own 14-0 run over the remaining 5:50 of the first half and owned a 27-21 halftime lead.

East Newton's tightly packed zone held Southwest center Matthew Whittington to a single basket for the game and forced the Trojans to settle for long range bombs against the Tarkanian-like "amoeba defense."

Southwest's offensive woes continued through the third quarter, although Justin Barber did manage to draw a fourth foul on East Newton's hottest shooter, Riley Brown. Still, the Patriot lead swelled to 41-22 before Roberts swished a trey for the first Southwest field goal of the quarter with 1:12 on the clock.

Roberts pulled the crowd back into the game when he was fouled on a desperate shot at the buzzer and connected on all three free throws to pull his team back within 42-29 to start the fourth quarter.

With the Patriots milking the clock, the period ticked away and the lead remained at 13 with 3:34 to play and East Newton ahead, 51-38. The Trojans responded with a furious 12-2 run to cut the lead to 53-51 with 1:31 remaining. But the Patriots squeezed two baskets and two free throws out of their sputtering offense and held on to win, 59-55.

Roberts had 26 points for Southwest, and Brown led East Newton with 22.

Many basketball sages expected the two Arkansas powers to meet in Tuesday's championship game. Instead, they played for the third place trophy and Pea Ridge dominated 82-56.

Kip Kelly scored an amazing 46 points for the Blackhawks, and retired to the bench with 3:44 left in the contest after swishing a 3 from the top of the arc.

Eureka Springs' inside game was limited early when Eric King had to be helped from the floor with a leg injury after only two minutes of play. Jacob Worley scored 17 points to lead the Highlanders.

Kelly, who reported that his previous career best was 28 points, played with special motivation in the contest.

"My cousin was having a baby today, and my grandpa is in the hospital," he said. "I just wanted to play as hard as I could for them."

In a classic struggle for the championship, Pierce City survived against Purdy, 63-61. While Roller and Williams carried Purdy with their 29 and 20 points, respectively, all five Pierce City starters reached double digits.

Pierce City led after a first quarter shooting exhibition, 20-18. After falling behind 26-25 when Williams hit a trey with 4:12 left in the second period, Pierce City scored the last three points of the half and led 29-26 at the break.

Twice, Pierce City built seven-point leads in the third quarter, and then again led by 7 at 51-44 when Dietrick Sooter hit a pair of free throws to begin the fourth quarter.

Roller carried the black-and-gold Eagles on his broad shoulders in the final frame, scoring 8 points and owning the boards at both ends of the floor. With Pierce City holding a precarious three-point lead with only :13 left to play, the green-and-white clad Eagles elected to foul to prevent a bomb from tying the game.

With only four ticks remaining, Williams went to the line and hit the first free throw. After a timeout, Williams purposely missed and Roller willed himself to the rebound but missed the shot with Pierce City players draped over him.

The coaches of the participating teams selected the following players to the All Tournament teams:

* First team: Kip Kelly, of Pea Ridge, Ark.; Mason Roller and Blake Williams, of Purdy; Taylor Williams, of Eureka Springs, Ark.; and Dietrick Sooter, of Pierce City

* Second team: Corey Trevathan, of Pea Ridge, Ark.; Jared Frey, of Pierce City; Riley Brown, of East Newton; and Josh Hartin and Levi Roberts, of Southwest.

"The tournament was a huge success; we had a lot of compliments from the visiting teams and their fans," said Jason Horn, coach of the host Southwest Trojans. "There were so many people behind the scenes that really pulled this tournament together, and I want to thank all of them for their help."

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