Buffalo Island Central is used to handing out lopsided whippings to their opponents. But Saturday night in front of a jam packed gymnasium at Earle, the shoe was on the other foot as the Earle Bulldogs flexed their muscles, pounding the defending State Champions 66-38.
Earle used a smothering full court press and forced the Mustangs into an uncharacteristic 11 first quarter turnovers in building a 22-4 lead. With Earle leading 4-2, the Bulldogs came up with three straight steals and lay-ups to push the score to 10-2. Ronnie Davis drilled a three pointer from the right corner and then Kevin Meredith and Davis came up with back to back thefts as Earle increased their lead to 17-2. Brooks Taylor finally broke the Earle run with a pair of free throws, but the Bulldogs continued their onslaught in the second quarter, and carried a 37-19 lead into the dressing room at the half.
The Mustangs not only had trouble getting the ball up and down the court, they also struggled to get their shots off, managing just six field goal attempts in the opening period when Earle went on their 20-2 tear.
Things didn't get any better for the Mustangs in the third quarter, although BIC did make one mini-run to pull within 15, 43-28, at the 2:54 mark. The Bulldogs, however, ran off three straight buckets and blew the game open, taking a 50-28 lead. Earle held a 55-32 advantage entering the final quarter as the Bulldogs claimed the Regional title.
"We didn't get any looks tonight," said BIC Coach Bill Taylor. "Earle made us do things I have never seen us do before, especially in the first quarter. The first quarter was awful. We didn't even get shot attempts. They are a tremendous club and they are tough to play here. All you need to know about playing in here is that Jonesboro High School got out of here with a loss, and they are the number one team in the state. I still believe in my team. I still believe we can win a state championship. I know that, I believe it. We just have to get regrouped and get to a neutral site. Everything will be a little different. Our only concern now is to get ready for Danville in the State Tournament. Earle was awesome tonight. They are so deep. But we are better ball handlers than that. We are not that bad of a team. We played them in our gym and lost to them by seven. We beat them on a neutral court and got embarrassed here. It was embarrassing and I apologize to our fans for not having my team better prepared. All I can say is we will bounce back and will be ready to play Tuesday afternoon. I know that about my team and we will bounce back."
BIC, who dropped to 32-5 on the season, was led by Hunter Smith who scored 11 points while Derek Roland added 10. Brooks Taylor was held to eight points before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Cord Rose scored three points while Garrett Qualls, Jordan Phillips, and Lance Davis added two points apiece.
Earle was led by Ronnie Davis who scored 18 points while Regional Most Valuable Player Aramie Brooks added 17. The win improves the Bulldogs' record to 23-8.
BIC will open State Tournament play Tuesday afternoon at 5:30 when they play Region 1 Champion Danville at Jessieville. The Bulldogs will open their State Tournament bid Wednesday afternoon at 5:30 against the runner-up from Region 1.
Joining Brooks on the All-Tournament team were teammates Steven Meredith and Ronnie Davis. BIC placed three players on the All-Tourney squad in Brooks Taylor, Derek Rolland, and Cord Rose. Tyler Timms of Riverside, Robert Tyree of Marked Tree, Mark Blackwell of Maynard, and Darius Hopkins of Turrell rounded out the All-Region team.