Watson leads Maynard to upset win over top seeded BIC in NEA Semifinals
Maynard's high scoring guard Colton Watson scorched Buffalo Island Central for 38 points to lead the fourth seeded Tigers to a 70-61 upset victory over the top seeded Mustangs in the Division 1 semifinals of the 67th Annual Northeast Arkansas Invitational Basketball Tournament Saturday, Dec. 28, at the Convocation Center in Jonesboro.
It marked the third consecutive 30 plus point performance for Watson, whose three game total of 122 points left the Tiger guard seven points shy of matching the tournament's 53 year old record of 129 points set by former Nettleton great Jerry Rook during the 1960-1961 tournament. BIC tried a variety of defenses in an attempt to slow down Watson, but the Tiger scoring machine would not be denied on this afternoon.
Watson got the Tigers off to a quick start with a three point bomb to begin the game. Another three pointer by Dakota Loggins, sandwiched between a couple of inside buckets by McKenzie Koons, gave the underdogs a 10-5 advantage at the 3:00 mark of the first period. BIC's Tyler Myers hit a 10-foot jumper, followed by an Alex Ballin three pointer to tie the score 10-10. Watson's short jumper put the Tigers back on top, but Jacob Sanders buried a trey, giving the Mustangs a one point lead with 1:00 left in the quarter. But the Tigers closed strong when Koons tapped in an offensive rebound before Watson nailed a 30-footer at the buzzer, giving Maynard a 17-13 advantage after the first break.
After Austin Pike sank a pair of foul shots to begin the second quarter, the Tigers went on a 13-2 run, beginning with Kelsey Roberts' three pointer and capped off by Watson's driving lay-in, putting Maynard up 30-17 with 5:12 left in the half. The Mustangs fought back with a 7-2 run of their own, thanks to Ballin who came away with a steal and lay-in followed by a three point basket. Watson closed the half by hitting four consecutive free throws to give the Tigers a 34-24 lead at intermission.
Maynard played slow down in the third quarter, which seemed to frustrate the Mustang defense. BIC began to foul as the Tigers went to the line 10 times, connecting on nine attempts, to maintain a 10 point advantage, 49-39, heading into the final frame.
Maynard seemed to be safely in control after a pair of Watson free throws gave the Tigers a 57-43 lead with 5:57 left, but the Mustangs roared back, scoring seven straight points in less than a minute, cutting the Tiger lead to 57-50. Sanders began the BIC comeback with a three pointer. A pair of Tiger turnovers led to back to back lay-ups by Pike and Alan Carmichael.
Maynard turned to Watson once more, as the slick 6'0" junior guard scored on three consecutive possessions to increase the Tiger lead to 63-50 with 3:50 remaining. Maynard hit just enough free throws down the stretch to hold the Mustangs at bay and grab a spot in the tournament finals opposite East Poinsett County.
Joining Watson in double figures for the Tigers was Koons, who finished with 12 points. Loggins chipped in nine. Maynard connected on 21-31 free throws and drained five treys on the night. Despite constant defensive pressure from the Mustangs, Maynard committed just seven turnovers, thanks mostly to the quickness and ball handling skills of Watson.
BIC was led by Bollinger's 15 points while Pike and Ballin added 11 points apiece. Jacob Sanders scored 10 while Carmichael scored seven points. Myers had four while Evans Sanders pitched in three. The Mustangs hit 6-10 foul shots, drilled six treys but committed 17 turnovers.
Austin Pike and Nick Bollinger were both named to the All-Tournament team.
BIC will return to action Tuesday night with a 2A-3 conference matchup on the road against Rector. The Mustangs will close the week with a trip to Augusta for another league battle.