Mustangs silence Screamin' Eagles with 72-62 NEA win

Friday, January 2, 2009

Buffalo Island Central advanced to the semifinals of the 62nd annual Northeast Arkansas Invitational Tournament behind the scoring of Blake Wheeler and Kam Ashabranner to post a 72-62 victory over Hillcrest Saturday night at the Convocation Center in Jonesboro.

BIC junior Blake Wheeler (4) in action in Saturday night's 72-62 win over Hillcrest.

Wheeler's three pointer gave BIC a 3-0 lead to open the game, and the Mustangs never trailed. The 6'1" junior combined with Ashabranner to score 15 of BIC's 20 first period points as the Mustangs took a 20-14 lead into the second quarter.

Wheeler began the second period with his third trey of the game, extending the Mustang lead to 23-14, and BIC upped their margin to 10 points with a conventional three point play from Brandon Atkeison at the 7:07 mark. Wheeler's fourth three pointer of the half and a free throw by Ashabranner sent the Mustangs into the dressing room with a comfortable 37-21 halftime lead.

The Screamin' Eagles pulled to within 11 points with 3:24 left in the third quarter on a three pointer by Jordan Hunter, but BIC came right back when Ben Cole made a nifty move for a bucket, was fouled, and completed the three point play for a 49-34 lead.

BIC guard Ben Cole (15) readies for a free throw in NEA Tournament action Saturday night against Hillcrest.

Hillcrest battled back in the fourth quarter, closing to within seven points with 1:52 to go, but failed to take advantage of free throw attempts, making only 4-9 down the stretch. BIC had their own problems from the foul line, making just 13-23 attempts in the final period, but that proved to be enough to secure the win.

Ashabranner posted a double-double, scoring 23 points while grabbing 11 boards, and continuously broke Hillcrest's full court press, giving the Mustangs several easy lay-ups during the night. Atkeison finished with nine points, Cole tallied eight, while Brent Ray finished with six. Heath Hawkins contributed two points on the night.

"I thought we played really well in the second quarter, breaking the game open," said BIC coach Dion Hargrove. "It gave us a good lead and we kind of held it there in the third quarter. I think both teams ran out of gas in the fourth quarter, causing problems at the free throw line which made the game look a little sloppy in the end. Kam Ashabranner and Blake Wheeler both played excellent games. Kam really handled the ball well for us. I thought Heath Hawkins had a complete game. He doesn't show up in the score book, but he does the little things that help us win. Brent Ray played well tonight. He doesn't try to do too much, but just does what is expected of him. Atkeison got in a little foul trouble, but he played well as did Ben Cole. Overall, we are pleased with the win and happy to be in the semifinals."

Mustang sophomore Kam Ashabranner (25) controls the opening tip of the BIC-Hillcrest game Saturday night in the NEA Tournament at the Convocation Center in Jonesboro. (Town Crier photos/Trent Fletcher)

Trevor Morgan led Hillcrest with 16 points, Derek Wooten scored 12 while Jordan Hunter and Dylan Wooten finished with 11 points apiece.

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