After two losses to start the Battle at The Ridge high school boys' basketball tournament at Pea Ridge High School, McDonald County salvaged a seventh-place finish with a 44-37 win on Dec. 14 over Providence Academy of Rogers.
"We tell the kids if we can play full-court defense and get hard up on our opposition, our transition game will be our game," said coach Brandon Joines. "Our half-court offense is still sloppy. We are still trying to fill roles and figure out who is going to do what in what motion. If we can get out in transition and just make the game fun -- that's what we did against Aurora and that's what we did today, especially in the second half. When we got out, you could just tell the excitement and energy were a lot better."
McDonald County jumped out to a 14-11 lead at the end of the first quarter but was held to a lone three-pointer by Pierce Harmon in the second quarter to fall behind 22-17 at halftime.
The Mustangs turned the tables in the third quarter, holding Providence to two points on the way to taking a 29-24 advantage into the fourth quarter.
After a Patriot free throw to open the final period, McDonald County scored seven consecutive points, including three-pointers by Harmon and Cole Martin, to give the Mustangs a 36-25 lead. Cade Smith then scored five straight points after a Providence three to put McDonald County ahead 41-28 with three minutes left in the game.
Providence scored six straight points to cut the lead to 41-34 with nearly two minutes left, but Harmon hit one of two free throws and Martin two of two to seal the win.
Smith finished with 19 points and Harmon 12 to lead the Mustangs. Rounding out the scoring for McDonald County were Martin with five points, Nevin Price and Cale Adamson with three each and John Howard two.
The host Blackhawks led just 14-11 after the first period but held McDonald County to three points in the second quarter on the way to a 67-36 win in the tournament's first round on Dec. 12.
Pea Ridge led 32-14 at halftime and stretched the margin to 54-29 after three quarters.
Smith, Harmon and Martin all scored nine points to lead McDonald County, while Adamson had six and Koby McAlister three to round out the scoring for the Mustangs.
Pea Ridge was led by Noah Peterson with 25 points and Wes Wales with 19.
In the semifinals of the consolation bracket on Dec. 13, the Clarksville Panthers jumped out to a 24-8 lead at the end of the first quarter and cruised to a 71-40 win over the Mustangs.
Clarksville led 46-21 at intermission and 69-35 after three quarters.
"The first games we played here wasn't us at all," Joines said. "It was the complete opposite. We had no energy and we didn't hustle. We didn't cover and it looked like we played a little bit scared. Some of it had to do with size, but against Clarksville, we just missed a lot of shots. We are a team if we knock down a shot or two, we get rolling and the energy level goes up. When they don't go in, they have to get out of their mind, 'Oh something bad happened.' You just have to fight back and get after it on defense. I told the kids we are going to turn the ball over, but we deal with that as long as we are playing fast -- we can't if we are playing slow and sloppy."
Smith led the Mustangs with 17 points, followed by Harmon and McAlister with eight each, Jackson Clarkson with three and Adamson and Martin two each.
Cole Clark scored 29 points, all in the first three quarters, to lead Clarksville.
McDonald County, 2-2 on the season, was at Gravette on Dec. 16 and at Webb City on Dec. 17 before hosting Carthage on Dec. 19 and traveling to Carl Junction on Dec. 21.Sports on 12/19/2019