Mustangs hold off Armorel in NEA quarterfinals
Buffalo Island Central overcame a determined effort by a pesky Armorel Tiger team in their Northeast Arkansas Invitational Tournament opener to post a hard fought 54-44 victory Thursday afternoon at the Convocation Center in Jonesboro.
The Mustangs spurted to a 7-0 lead on a pair of baskets by Nick Bollinger and a three pointer from Alex Ballin to begin the game. Two more Bollinger buckets had the Mustangs up 11-4 before Zack Gray's three pointer followed by the Tiger point guard's steal and lay-up helped cut the BIC lead to 11-9. Bollinger closed the quarter with a give and go bucket with an assist from Austin Pike plus a free throw to put the Mustangs ahead 14-11 at the break.
Armorel came out strong in the second stanza and took a 15-14 edge on a five-foot floater in the lane by Gray. BIC quickly answered when Pike converted a three point play and stretched their lead to 19-15 when the 6'4" junior point guard muscled his way for an inside basket.
Armorel charged back on buckets by Peyton Brown and Gray to tie the game 19-19 at the 3:29 mark, but the Mustangs outscored the Tigers 9-4 the rest of the half to take a 28-23 advantage into the dressing room at intermission.
BIC built their lead to 32-25 early in the third quarter on a three point play by Alan Carmichael and had opportunities to stretch their advantage even further, but struggled to make their free throws.
The Tigers mounted one last charge late in the fourth period, slicing the Mustang lead to 42-39 on a baseline jumper by Gray with 3:08 left in the game, but Pike struck again for BIC with a huge offensive stick-in to push the Mustang lead back to five at the 2:45 mark.
Armorel could get no closer than four the rest of the way as Pike scored the last eight points for BIC, including a 6-8 performance from the foul line in the closing seconds to seal the win.
Pike and Bollinger led the Mustang attack with 19 points apiece while Carmichael chipped in 11. Ballin finished with three points while Jacob Sanders and Tyler Myers added one point each. BIC struggled from the foul line, hitting just 22-37 attempts and connected on one three pointer. The Mustangs forced 15 Tiger turnovers on the day.
Gray led Armorel with 15 points while Brown scored 12. The Tigers went to the foul line just 12 times, connecting on six. Armorel drained a pair of three pointers.
The top-seeded Mustangs advance to Saturday's semifinals where they will face fourth seeded Maynard in a 4:30 p.m. tipoff.