The Viola Longhorns put together a dream run through the State Class A Tournament and now head back to Pine Bluff this Saturday for a chance at a state championship, something the Viola Longhorns have not had since 1957.
The Longhorns stumbled out of the district and regional tournament as runner-up to Rural Special, a team they had dominated in regular season. But the state tournament is a new season altogether.
The Longhorns drew second ranked Bradley in the opening round, and squeaked by to take a 56-55 win on "Big Jake" Oliver's putback with 1.7 seconds left. Kyle "Boomer" Baumunk paced the Longhorns with 18 points, and Justin "Batman" Batterton tallied 14. Oliver ended with 10, but none bigger than the last one. After the Longhorns took the lead, Batterton tipped the pass downcourt away, preserving the win for Viola.
In the second round game, the Longhorns drew the host team, the number 6 team in the state, Humphrey, and the result was the same - another win, setting up one more hurdle to get a return ticket to Pine Bluff for the Big One.
The only thing that stood in their way was the Scranton Rockets, which were number nine in state.
The Rockets took the first score of the game, but Baumunk hit the turnaround jumper in the lane to knot the game at 2-2. Dustin "Big Country" Jones took the Batterton feed and hit the jumper in the lane, then "Knock 'em out John" Mark Montgomery got the backdoor feed from "Batman," and the Longhorns had a 6-2 lead. A trey from Scranton cut the Longhorn lead to 1, but Derek "Old Man" Winter was cool under pressure, nailing a trey from the top to up the Longhorn lead to 9-5.
A 7-0 surge by Scranton put the score in their favor, but Winter hit a leaner off the inbounds pass to close to within 1. The Rockets answered with a deuce of their own. Batterton hit a charity toss after getting hacked on the leaner down low, but Scranton hit a buzzer-beating trey to end the first and take a 17-12 lead.
"Batman" hit a traditional 3- point play to open the second quarter with a driving one hander down the lane and then a free throw, closing the gap to 2 points.
A bucket by the Rockets upped their lead to four points again, but Oliver canned a couple of free throws to cut the deficit in half. Scranton kept the pressure on with another bucket, but "Batman" canned a trey from the left wing to close the gap to a single point. Scranton wouldn't stop, adding another bucket to up their lead to 3 points."Batman" and Montgomery ran the two-on-one to perfection, with Montgomery converting the old-fashioned 3-point play to knot the game at 23-all with 4:19 left in the second.
Scranton hit a bucket 10 seconds later, but the Longhorns went on an 8-0 run to end the half. Batterton hit a trey from the right corner, Jones hit the baseline jumper off the Montgomery assist, Baumunk hit the layin off the inbounds play, then Oliver hit a free throw to push the Viola lead out to 31-25 at the break.
The Longhorns brought the fans out of their seats with the opening play of the second half, a back door SLAM by Kyle Baumunk, upping the Longhorn lead to 33-25.Scranton started scratching their way back with a deuce, but a trey from the right corner by Batterton put the Longhorns lead back to 9.
Back- to- back buckets by the Rockets cut the Longhorns lead to 5 points, but Baumunk tipped in a rebound, and Batterton stroked a trey from the left corner with 5:13 to go in the third to open up the Longhorns'first double digit lead of the game.
A free throw by Scranton was negated by a trey from Montgomery, pushing Viola out to 44-32.
Scranton hit a deuce to cut it back down to a 10-point game, but Batterton made a steal and went coast to coast for the layup, then Oliver added a free throw to set up Viola's biggest lead of the game at 13 points.
Eight unanswered points by Scranton cut the Viola lead to 5 points, but Oliver hit both ends of the one-and-one with 50.2 seconds left in the third to stem the tide.
The Rockets added a trey to end the third, setting up the fourth quarter with the Longhorns clinging to a 49-45 lead.Scranton cut the gap to 2 points, but Winter hit a free throw to give the Longhorns a little bit of room. The Rockets launched a trey at the 5:25 mark that knotted the game at 50-50, but Jones recaptured the lead for Viola with a putback at the 5:00 mark.
Scranton looked to knock the Longhorns out with 5 quick points, taking a 55-52 lead with 4:26 left in the game, but Winter got open in the back door and Montgomery fed the ball in, and to close the gap, then Batterton gave the Longhorns the lead for good with a couple of free throws.Winter added a couple of his own to give the Longhorns a 58-55 advantage with just over two minutes to go.
Two free throws by Scranton cut the Longhorns lead back to a single point, but Batterton rocked the defense to sleep and went down the lane for a layup, then added two free throws on the next trip to put the Longhorns up 62-57.
Scranton came back with a 2 point bucket, but Baumunk hit the layup with the assist from Winter on the break, then Batterton knocked down two more free throws with 24.5 seconds to go, putting Viola up 66-59.
Another bucket by Scranton with 15.3 seconds left was as close as they would get, as Batterton finished the scoring for the game with two free throws, setting up the final score of 68-61 and sending the Longhorns to try for their first championship in 45 years.
Scoring for the Longhorns: Batterton (28), Baumunk (10), Winter (10), Montgomery (8), Jones (6), and Oliver (6).The Longhorns will play Delight at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.