Buffalo Island Central controlled the first three quarters of the Monday night, Dec. 29, semi-final matchup against Turrell in the 62nd annual Northeast Arkansas Invitational Tournament in Jonesboro, but Theo Turner and Terrance Selvy set off a fourth quarter explosion as the Rockets blasted past the Mustangs to post a 60-49 come from behind victory.
The Mustangs withstood Turner's three point barrage in the third quarter to hang onto a 37-32 lead heading into the final frame. The 5'10" senior knocked down four three pointers during the quarter to help the Rockets cut the 10 point halftime deficit in half.
Turner's back to back treys in the closing seconds of the third period pulled Turrell to within three points before Ben Cole scored on a driving lay-up following a beautiful pass from Ashabranner to give the Mustangs the five point cushion entering the final frame.
Ashabranner hit a 15-footer from the top of the key to close the gap to 41-40, but Selvy answered with a coast to coast lay-up after a steal, pushing the margin to 43-40 at the 4:59 mark. Selvy's three point play with 3:16 left gave Turrell a 48-41 lead. Ashabranner kissed a five-footer off the glass with 2:27 remaining to close the gap to 48-43, but the Mustangs were forced to foul down the stretch as the Rockets sank 12 free throws in the last 2:00 to salt the game away.
"We defended well and played our game in the first half," said BIC coach Dion Hargrove. "But it was a tale of two halves. I thought we played solid defense on Turner, but he just knocked down the shots anyway. We missed a few lay-ups and put backs that could have been due to fatigue, but the bottom line is Turner was just too good tonight. I was proud of our team. We had a good tournament."
Ashabranner and Atkeison both posted double-doubles for BIC. Ashabranner finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds while Atkeison scored 15 points and added 10 boards. Blake Wheeler scored eight, Ben Cole netted six while Heath Hawkins added two points.
Ashabranner and Wheeler were named to the NEA Tournament team for BIC.
BIC will return to action Tuesday night when they host Marked Tree. The Mustangs will celebrate homecoming Friday night against Cross County.