Kirk Horton's only basket of the game with 1.5 seconds left lifted Rector to a heart-stopping 47-45 victory over Riverside in the opening round of the 65th annual Northeast Arkansas Invitational Tournament Monday afternoon at the Convocation Center in Jonesboro.
(Town Crier photo/Trent Fletcher)
Riverside had one last chance to pull out the win, but Jake Love's desperation three at the buzzer banged off the front of the rim, allowing the Cougars to escape.
Rector held a 13-12 lead after the first period, but stretched their advantage to 28-17 when Brandon Stevens drained four consecutive three pointers. Riverside's Jake Emery closed the half with a three pointer of his own at the buzzer to pull the Rebel's to within 28-20 at halftime.
Riverside began the third period with a 14-2 run to take a 34-30 lead with 2:45 left in the quarter. Stevens rallied the Cougars, scoring five unanswered points to give Rector a
35-34 advantage. The Rebels came right back to reclaim the lead, 38-37, heading into the final frame.
Love led Riverside with 18 points while Josh Anderson scored nine, all in the third quarter. Emery added six, M.J. Brewer and Cole Winford pitched in four points apiece while Dewayne Schrader and Morgan Fletcher connected for two points each.
Kirklin led all scorers with a game high 21 points while Stevens added 17 more for Rector.
"We won the game on a busted play," said Rector Coach Matt Mills. "We had a play drawn up, but we had someone run to the wrong place, so Kirk (Horton) ended up having to make a play on his own. That's what you want your point guard to do. Brandon Stevens played a heck of a game, especially in the second quarter. He's only a sophomore, and I think Riverside probably didn't know much about him. We stepped up and made plays when we had to at the end of the game."
"We had a lot of opportunities to win the game, but we just didn't close the deal," said Riverside coach Buster Campbell. "We played a really good third quarter and we had our chances when we got the lead, but we couldn't extend it. We just didn't make the plays you have to make to win the ballgame."
Riverside will return to action Tuesday, Jan. 5, when they play host to East Poinsett County at Caraway. The Rebels will have a rematch with Rector on Jan. 8 at Lake City.