Junction City holds off BIC in state semifinals 56-53
A slow start, coupled with a controversial call late in the fourth quarter, spoiled Buffalo Island Central's quest for their fifth state basketball championship Wednesday afternoon in the Class 2A state semifinals at Pangburn. The Mustangs battled back from a 13 point halftime deficit against Junction City but fell short in the end, as the Dragons held on to deal BIC a heartbreaking 56-53 loss.
The Mustangs fell behind 23-15 after the first quarter and trailed 38-25 at the half. BIC battled back in the third period, slicing the Dragon lead to three. Consecutive three point bombs from Trey DePriest, Austin Pike and Seth Eatmon chopped BIC's halftime deficit to 42-36 midway through the third quarter. Pike drew the Mustangs even closer, 42-39, with a conventional three point play at the 3:36 mark. The two teams swapped buckets before Pike soared for a tip-in with 1:47 left in the period, and suddenly the Mustangs were within a point. Jalen Davis answered with an assist from Arkansas Razorback football signee Jamario Bell, to give the Dragons a 46-43 edge entering the fourth quarter.
Davis began the last stanza with an inside basket to put Junction City up by five, but Pike buried a three pointer from beyond the top of the key to trim the Dragon lead back to 48-46. Junction City moved ahead 52-47 at the 4:35 mark on a pair of Bell free throws. Neither team could find the basket over the next two minutes, until Pike's offensive stick-back with 2:29 left cut the Dragon lead to 52-49.
Junction City, who struggled all afternoon from the foul line, hitting just 6-16 attempts, missed several key free throws in the fourth quarter, allowing the Mustangs to hang close. Junction City's Javontay Rogers managed to drop in just one of two attempts to give the Dragons a 53-49 lead at the 1:56 mark. Pike scored on a driving lay-in with 1:35 to go, bringing the Mustangs to within 53-51. Rogers was fouled on Junction City's next possession, but missed the front end of the one and one, giving the Mustangs possession with 1:10 showing on the clock. BIC senior guard Seth Eatmon threw in an eight-foot floater seconds later to even the game at 53-all with 1:03 remaining.
The Dragons moved quickly down the floor where Bell powered his way to the basket for the go-ahead bucket, putting Junction City on top to stay, 55-53, with 53 ticks left on the clock.
Perhaps the biggest play of the game came on BIC's next possession, when Pike drove the lane but was whistled for an offensive foul. The call came with 42 seconds remaining and was Pike's fifth foul of the contest, sending the senior to the bench.
Junction City missed two of their next three free throws, and held a three point lead with 15 seconds left, giving the Mustangs one last opportunity to send the game into overtime. BIC attempted two desperation three pointers, first by Depriest and the final attempt from Alan Carmichael, but both shots were off the mark as the horn sounded, ending the Mustang's season.
"It was a tough call toward the end of the game," said Mustang Coach Bill Taylor. "I thought it was a flop but we didn't get the call. I am very proud of the way we fought back after such a slow start. The kids never gave up. I thought Austin Pike had a great game. I am extremely proud of the kids and the way they played. We are just very disappointed after getting this close."
Pike ended his stellar Mustang career, pouring in a game high 35 points. Eatmon finished with eight, Cory Turner scored six while Depriest chipped in four points. BIC hit 12-15 foul shots and finished with five three pointers.
Bell topped the Dragons with 16 points, Randall Holyfield scored 15 while Davis added 10.
The Mustangs advanced to the semifinals, rolling over Eureka Springs 70-41 in first round action before downing Mineral Springs 67-55 in the quarterfinals.
In Monday's first round game, BIC held an 18 point halftime lead and coasted in for the 29 point victory over the Highlanders.
Pike led the Mustangs with 24 points while Eatmon pumped in 22 more, including six three pointers. Turner scored nine, Alan Carmichael tallied four while Depriest, Andrew McFarlin and Johnathan Mondragon chipped in three points each. Juan Castillo added two points.
Reggie Sanchez led Eureka Springs with 16 points while Trevor Lemme added 14 more.
In BIC's semifinal victory over Mineral Springs, the Mustangs held a 21-5 lead after the opening quarter and took a 38-18 advantage into intermission. BIC led 50-35 after three quarters and coasted the rest of the way for the victory.
Eatmon drained five three pointers and poured in 30 points to lead the Mustangs offensively. Pike also hit double digits, scoring 21 points. Carmichael had six, Turner netted five, Depriest tallied three while McFarlin chipped in two to round out the Mustang scoring output.
Keshaun Davis led the Hornets with 18 points while Fredrick Robinson pitched in 10.