Buffalo Island Central must have wondered if they would ever get to the free throw line during Tuesday afternoon's first round match-up against Danville in the Class AA State Tournament at Jessieville. After playing the entire first half without attempting a free throw, the Mustangs paraded to the line 28 times in the second half, connecting on 23, en route to a 54-47 victory over the Little Johns to advance to the quarter-finals on Friday.
The Mustangs hit 5-6 foul shots in the third quarter before connecting on 18-22 in the final frame, including their last eight in a row. Brooks Taylor, who poured in a game high 23 points to lead BIC, missed his first free throw of the night, before connecting on his last 11, helping the defending State Champions break a 24-24 halftime tie to battle past Region 1 winner Danville.
Sharp-shooting Hunter Smith gave the Mustangs an early lift by ripping four first quarter treys as the 5'11" senior scored 14 of his 17 points in the opening quarter. Smith's three pointer at the buzzer gave BIC a 16-12 lead entering the second quarter.
Taylor opened the second quarter with a one handed 12-footer to give BIC their biggest lead of the night, 18-12, but the Little Johns battled back with a 7-0 run highlighted by C.J. Davis' 12-foot pull up jumper with 5:02 to go in the half, giving Danville a 19-18 edge. John Danner nailed another 12-footer at the 4:43 mark to give the Little Johns a 21-18 lead, before BIC regained the lead when Taylor and senior Derek Rolland drilled back to back treys to put the Mustangs back on top, 24-21. Jonathan Spikes, who led Danville with 15 points, nailed a three pointer of his own as the two teams went into the dressing room tied at 24-24.
Offensively, it was all Taylor for BIC in the third period as the 6'3" senior scored all 10 of BIC's points, helping BIC take a 34-31 lead entering the final frame.
Taylor pushed the Mustang lead to 36-31 early in the fourth period with a 15-foot jump shot before BIC began their stroll to the charity stripe. Spikes kept the Little Johns close by scoring 10 fourth quarter points, but it wasn't enough as the Mustangs geared up for a second round showdown with James Anderson and the Junction City Dragons.
The Mustangs, who improved to 33-5, connected on 13-24 field goal attempts, including a 6-11 performance from beyond the three point arc. Rounding out the BIC scoring was Rolland who had eight points, while Eric Wallace, Garrett Qualls, and Jordan Phillips added two points apiece.
Danville, who finishes the year 23-6, also got double figures from Davis, who scored 11 points. The Little Johns shot a respectable 56 percent from the field while connecting on 5-8 three point attempts. Danville managed to get to the free throw line just nine times, connecting on six.
"Danville really hurt us on the glass and did a really good job guarding Brooks tonight," said BIC Coach Bill Taylor. "They are a very good and physical basketball team. Hunter Smith did a great job to get us going early. We made shots when we had to make them. We didn't go to the free throw line in the first half, but we made 23-28 in the second half and that's not bad. There was some doubt about how we would bounce back from the Earle loss, but I have a lot of faith in my kids and they did a great job tonight. They came ready to play. We advanced and that is all we wanted to do."