It is hard to imagine that the defending state champions would be getting a lack of respect from any team. If that was the case, the Mustangs grabbed everyone's attention including Maynard's as they slapped the Tigers 90-78 Friday night to secure their sixth straight 3AA North Conference District Tournament Championship at Marmaduke.
"I want to get this out of the way right now," said BIC Coach Bill Taylor. "We are the defending state champions, and in the Jonesboro Sun on Feb. 7, Maynard called us out. They said they wanted to play us again. Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it. Show a little respect. Our guys read that and that helped motivate us tonight. We have won this tournament six years in a row and we are the defending state champions and people are calling us out. I don't think that is a wise thing to do. Now, they are an outstanding team and I don't want to have to play them again. I have that much respect for them."
The Mustangs started off with Maynard like they left off with Riverside the night before as they scorched the nets in the opening quarter. Brooks Taylor, who would finish the night with a career high 61 points, scored BIC's first 12 of the game to give the Mustangs a 12-8 lead midway through the opening period.
The two teams traded baskets before Trent Melton, who led Maynard with 28 points, completed a conventional three point play with 58 seconds to go in the quarter, making the score 17-14, BIC. But Taylor answered with a long three from near the Greene County line to make the score 20-14. The Mustangs finished the quarter up 22-14.
Taylor continued his torrid shooting in the second quarter as he ripped off four straight long range bombs from beyond the three point arc, pushing the Mustangs to a 38-21 lead with 4:23 left in the half. BIC would lead by as many as 21 points before Maynard rallied to cut the lead to 46-31 at the half.
The two teams battled on even terms in the third period with BIC holding a 69-54 lead entering the final quarter. Taylor drilled two more treys during the period, while three different Mustangs also connected from beyond the three point line. Melton, along with seniors Nathan Barber and Mark Blackwell, kept the Tigers from being blown out.
Maynard made one last charge and cut the lead to 73-63 with 6:17 left but saw their hopes fade when Mark Blackwell was whistled for his fifth foul at the 5:55 mark. The Tigers would lose two more players to fouls which would hamper their comeback bid. Taylor salted the game away by hitting 8-10 free throws down the stretch. "We got in foul trouble tonight and that really hurt us," said Maynard Coach Jeff Roark. "I was proud of our kids for not giving up. We could have quit in the first half when BIC got up by 21 but we battled back. I think nerves got the best of us when we first came out. We are not used to being in this situation and they are. Trent Melton really stepped up for us tonight. He had been in a slump the last few games but he snapped out of it tonight."
"Maynard is a very good team," stated Taylor. "You don't want to get behind a team like that. They are the most talented team in our league. They are the best team in Arkansas that nobody knows about. They have some terrific ball players on their team. I think they are more athletic than my team at every single position."
"Brooks was just phenomenal tonight in my opinion," continued Taylor. "It was an amazing performance by an amazing player. I am so proud of these players and the players before them. This is our sixth straight district tournament title. In this conference, that is quite a feat. I am not going to hide it, it offended us that they wanted to play us again and they cherished the chance. We feel like we have been a little disrespected at times this season. We're 30-4. We're not a bad club. And people are picking different teams to win the conference tournament. Give us our due, that's all I'm saying. I didn't have to say anything to my team. They read the comments, they brought it up.
"Brooks is our star. He does what he is supposed to do, scoring points. But this is a team. We are more than him. But I just get sad thinking the end is getting near for this group. It can't go on forever," concluded Taylor.
Derek Rolland finished the night with 11 points for BIC and was the only other Mustang in double figures. Hunter Smith scored seven points, Jordan Phillips had four, while Cord Rose and Garrett Qualls added three points apiece. Senior forward Eric Wallace rounded out the BIC attack with two points. The Mustangs were 18-26 from the foul line and drilled 14 three pointers, giving them 27 treys in the last two games.
Joining Melton in double figures for Maynard were Nathan Barber with 14 points and sophomore guard Jake Redwine who added 13. The Blackwell twins, Mark and Adam, also hit double digits with 10 points apiece. Maynard struggled from the free throw line, hitting just 15-27, while banging home seven three pointers on the night.
BIC will enter the Region 4 Tournament as the defending Regional Champions and will carry the number one seed into Wednesday night's contest where they will play fourth seeded Marked Tree from the 3AA South. Game time will be 5:30 p.m. at Earle.
The Tigers will go into the Regional Tourney as the second seed from the 3AA North and will face the third seeded Cross County Thunderbirds from the 3AA South in a 8:30 Thursday night matchup.