It took a hot hand from Seth Risner to start it, and a steady one from Wesley Whiteside to finish it, but the Mammoth Spring Bears successfully defended their home court against a visit from the ICC Cougars Jan. 13 in 2AA-North play.
Risner shot lights-out in the first period, draining five treys, and Whiteside put in six big points late in the fourth as the Bears staved off the Cougars 58-55.
The Bears jumped out to a 16-2 lead right off the bat in the first by working the ball inside the paint and then kicking it out to Risner on the perimeter.
"Seth's performance was the key to the game for us," said Bears' Head Coach Bob Maguffee. "We'd lost three games in a row and needed to get off to a good start. Seth gave us that lift."
After he burned the Cougars for 15 of his team-high 18 points in the first frame, ICC finally put the cuffs on Risner thanks to a box-and-one defense with Justin Burns shadowing Risner everywhere he went.
Despite Risner being shackled after the first period, the Bears still had plenty of firepower to aim at the Cougars.
"Adam Brown's probably our leading scorer this year, and Brandon Myers along with Derick Baldridge have been shooting the ball well lately, so we've got some guys who can score," Maguffee said.
Jason Sherrell (14 points) kept the Cougars from getting completely swept away in the first by canning ICC's last six points in the frame, including a 3-ball, as Mammoth Spring led 23-10 after one.
No slouch himself from beyond the arc, Burns (14 points) opened play in the second period by nailing the first of his four treys in the game as ICC fought back.
Allen Roberts (11 points) got in on the long-distance act for the Cougars as well, helping ICC to a 16-4 run to open the second, and cut the Bears' margin to one, 27-26, with 2:50 left until intermission.
"They're a great team, and Coach Harmon does a great job coaching them," Maguffee said. "We knew they'd make a run. We told the guys during timeouts, we got off to a good start, and to not let up."
Logan Lawerence righted the ship for Mammoth Spring (15-7, 5-4 in 2AA-North) by knocking in a trifecta, along with a putback from Adam Brown (10 points).
Closing the frame with a layup by Matt Harrell (six points), the Bears weathered the ICC storm to take a 34-28 lead to halftime.
"Matt's shot at the end of the second was big. They'd cut into the lead pretty good, and we needed that," said Maguffee.
Mammoth Spring pushed the lead back to 11 points early in the third on 3-point bombs from Derick Baldridge and Brandon Myers (nine points), before the Cougars once again shaved a few points off to trail by six, 48-42, at the end of the third period.
Inspired to be this close after dropping into a huge hole to start the game, the Cougars (14-11, 6-2 ) finally managed to take their first lead of the game less than two minutes into the final frame.
Robert Stephens (10 points) sank a layup, and Burns curled off a couple of screens for back-to-back 3-pointers, to stake the Cougars to a 50-48 advantage at the 6:24 mark.
The lead swapped sides a couple of times, with ICC climbing back on top top 52-51 as Jesse Dockins (six points) hit Burns with a nifty backdoor pass for a layup.
Holding onto a 54-52 advantage with 4:38 left to play, Mammoth Spring worked the ball around the perimeter to take some time off the clock, and to try and get an easy score in the paint.
This strategy worked, with Whiteside (10 points) scoring six of the Bears' last eight points inside the lane.
ICC did manage to draw within a single point, 56-55, at the 50-second mark on a trey from Sherrell, but after a pair of late-second wins the previous two weeks, the Cougars were denied another one, as the Bears held on for a close three-point win.
In girls' action, it was classic study in contrasts, as youth went up against experience.
The Lady Bears took the floor with a starting lineup comprised of four sophomores and a freshman, while the Lady Cougars countered with four seniors and a junior.
On this night, the veterans held serve, although not be much, as ICC knocked off Mammoth Spring 57-50 for a 2-AA North Conference win.
Holding a 17-11 lead after the first period, the Lady Cougars turned up the defensive pressure in the second period, building a 26-15 lead by allowing the Lady Bears just two field goals midway into the frame.
Laura Gaskins (nine points) connected on a trey to put ICC in front 33-18 late in the second, before Ann Whiteside answered with four straight points to close the period with Mammoth Spring trailing 33-22 at the half.
Whiteside paced the Lady Bears with a game-high 20 points.
The Lady Cougars kept their distance in the third, leading 44-33 going into the final period, as Lauren Cunningham (18 points) closed the third with four straight points.
Cunningham came up big again in the fourth as she shook free for a couple of uncontested layups after the Lady Bears had cut ICC's lead to 52-45.
That would be as close as Mammoth Spring could draw as Mandy Haney (12 points) tossed in three free throws in the game's last 48 seconds to keep the Lady Cougars on top for good, 57-50.
Blair Gay added 10 points for ICC, while Ariel Yancey had four. Joy Henderson and Chelsie Yancey finished with two points each for the Lady Cougars.
Madison Busch posted 15 for Mammoth Spring, with Jodie Walsh adding seven.