LEPANTO The Paragould Rams raced to a 30-16 halftime lead against Riverside then held off a furious fourth quarter charge by Riverside enroute to a hard fought 55-51 win in the opening round of the Tri-County Tournament at Lepanto on Monday.
After falling behind 16-11 in the first quarter, Rebel shooting turned even colder in the second d period as the Rams stretched the lead to 14 by intermission.
But the second half turned into something different as the Rebels came to life behind the inside play of 6'3" Senior Dustin Kelems and the three-point accuracy from sophomore Zac Reynolds.
Riverside began to chip away at the Ram lead in the third quarter as Kelems hit a basket in the lane and Reynolds nailed back to back treys to pull the Rebels to within eight 38-30 at the 2:52 mark. However, after a basket by Jacob Cooper followed by a Ram free throw, the lead again went back to double digits 41-30 with 2.8 seconds left in the third quarter.
Then out of nowhere Kelems launched a three from 30-feet out just before the buzzer to cut Paragould's lead to 41-33 entering the final frame.
From then on the Reels made it a ballgame as shots that earlier wouldn't fall for Riverside started to find their maker. And when the Rams Josh Lange was hit with a technical foul with 7:33 to go things really heated up.
The Rebels Shannon Timms nailed both technical shots to cut the lead to 41-37. After a Rebel missed shot on the ensuing inbound play Paragould began to ice the game, away at the Free Throw line, mainly behind the shooting of Cooper.
After Nathan Stewart hit two straight baskets to put the Rams back up eight 49-41, Riverside made one last desperate charge. Matt Owens, who finished with 11 points on the night, hit a couple of buckets and Joe Ellis nailed one of two charity tosses to trim the lead to 49-44 with 2:26 left.
The score stayed the same until Alex Smith scored on an offensive rebound to cut the Ram lead to 49-46 with 1:15 to go.
After Cooper sank one of two free throws, Reynolds hit one last trey with :41 seconds left and the Reels had cut what was once a 16-point lead to one 50-49.
But Paragould sealed the deal at the line as Cooper hit two free throws and Joseph Cockrum added one and when Reynolds long three with two seconds left, missed the mark the Rams escaped with the 57-55 win.
Paragould hit nine out of 13 at the line in the final period to hold off a valiant Rebel comeback and advance on into the second round of the tournament.
Riverside falls to 7-8 on the year despite a gutsy effort.
"We made a great comeback coming from 16 down with a chance to tie the game with five second lest," Rebel Coach Buster Campbell said.
"We just can't seem to put together a complete ball game right now. We have got to put 32 minutes together. We're just not tough enough right now," added the Riverside Coach.
The Rebels placed three players in double figures. Kelems had 18, Reynolds scored 17, and Owens added 11. Smith and Timms scored two each while Ellis put in the one free throw.
The Rams had four players in double digits with Cooper scoring 14 and Cockrum adding 13. Stewart and Andy Shatzley pitched in 10 each.