Mustangs celebrate return to Class 2A State tournament with first round win over Bearden
Buffalo Island Central used a big fourth quarter to pull away from Bearden en route to a 70-51 victory in the first round of the Class 2A State Tournament Saturday afternoon at Hampton. It was the 30th victory of the season for the Mustangs, who celebrated their return to state tournament play under Head Coach Bill Taylor.
BIC fell behind in the first quarter as the third seeded Bears from the South Region dominated the backboards early. Quentin Wilson's steal and layup at the 2:53 mark gave Bearden its first lead of the game, 8-7. DeVontae Ross cleaned up the boards with an offensive stick-back before a Javare Simmons steal and lay-in completed a 6-0 Bearden run and a 12-7 Bear lead with 2:06 left in the quarter. Buckets by Austin Pike and Nick Bollinger sliced the Bear lead to 14-11 at the first break.
Senior guard Jacob Sanders began to take charge in the second quarter, scoring on back to back trips down the floor to put the Mustangs back on top, 17-16. Randy Hempstead gave the Bears the lead with a thunderous one-handed slam seconds later. Seth Eatmon traded baskets with Wilson as the Bears maintained a slim 20-19 advantage before Sanders asserted himself once again by drilling back to back treys for a 25-24 Mustang lead at the 3:34 mark. Ross put in another offensive stick-back for the athletic Bears with 2:08 remaining in the half for a 26-25 lead, but Eatmon ripped the nets from beyond the three point arc to hand the Mustangs a 28-26 halftime advantage.
Clint Parham began the third quarter with a bucket to tie things up, but Sanders answered with his third three of the day and the Mustangs held a 31-28 lead. Bollinger and Tyler Myers connected to give BIC five point leads on two occasions midway through the quarter, but Bearden's Jamond Young kept the Mustangs from pulling away when the 5'11" junior guard ripped a three pointer and followed with a 10-foot pull-up jumper. BIC stretched its lead to 43-37 late in the third period on a Sanders steal and lay-up, but a Wilson basket, followed by four consecutive free shots, evened things up one last time at 43-all with 34 ticks left in the third stanza. The Mustangs played for the last shot of the quarter and Pike cashed in with a three pointer to give BIC a slim 46-43 lead heading into the final frame.
BIC stretched its lead to seven beginning the fourth quarter on back to back buckets by Pike and Bollinger. The Bears were able to pull within three, 52-49, on a pair of Hempstead baskets with 5:00 left in the game, but could never get closer the rest of the way. Two free throws and back to back Bollinger buckets increased the Mustang lead to 62-53, and following a technical foul on the Bears, Pike drained four consecutive free throws to put the game out of reach, 68-55.
The Mustangs put four players in double figures, led by Sanders' game high 19 points. Pike was next with 17, followed by Bollinger and Eatmon, who scored 16 and 12 points respectively. Trey DePriest tallied four while Myers chipped in two points. BIC hit 11-17 foul shots and nailed seven treys.
Young topped the Bears with 13 points, followed by Hempstead's 12 and Wilson's 10 points. Bearden connected on 11-15 free throws but hit just one three pointer.
"It was a great win for us today," Taylor said. "To advance validates that we belong here. I really thought Jacob Sanders played as well as he has all year. He gave us a huge boost offensively, defensively and with his steals. He played an all around great game. I thought Austin Pike's three pointer at the end of the third quarter was huge. We came up with some big plays defensively that helped us finish the game off. We are looking to go as far as we can."