Less than a week-and-a-half after battling Van Buren for the championship of the Big Spring Conference Tournament, the Alton Comets welcomed the Bulldogs to Oregon County for a rematch.
Although it took three overtimes in the earlier contest to do it, the Comets knocked off the Bulldogs 83-79 in the tourney finals to claim their 13th straight Big Spring Conference Tournament crown.
As it turned out, things couldn't have been any more different when the two squads hooked up in Alton Feb. 11. No overtime. No drama. And no Comet victory in round two.
Looking completely out of sync for most of the contest, Alton just couldn't break out of the doldrums, and Van Buren handed the Comets a rare double-digit loss at home, 65-55.
A big problem for the Comets was the fact that their leading scorer, Alex Wiggs, was relegated to spending a big chunk of the game on the bench with foul trouble. Wiggs, who tossed in his 1,000th career point last week, ended up fouling out late in the fourth period with 10 points beside his name, less than half his normal output.
The Comets would be in a hole for most of the contest, with the Dawgs jumping in front 13-10 after the first period.
Alton did pull ahead for a brief moment in the second period, 19-18, thanks to a 3-ball from Justin Crews. Crews led the Comets with a game-high 22 points on the night.
This trey from Crews at the 4:45 mark turned out to be Alton's last points for over four minutes, as Van Buren put the clamps on the Comets with a 13-2 run to end the first half of play.
Alton had a few good looks at the hoop during that stretch, but offensive fouls, along with missed shots from point-blank range and empty trips to the foul line, ensured that the Dawgs remained in front 31-21 at intermission.
It was one step forward, two steps back for the Comets in the third period.
Crews busted a triple early in the frame, and Wiggs put back a missed shot, but the Dawgs fired off a 12-2 run to extend their advantage to 47-33 after three.
Alton managed to pull as close as six points, 56-50, with 2:43 left in the game, but Van Buren had no desire to let this one slip away, as the Bulldogs posted a 10-point Big Spring win over Alton.
Dustin Tackitt tallied nine points for the Comets, while Bryan Joiner added seven. Ben Alexander, Logan Simpson and Michael Crowell logged two points apiece for Alton.
The Lady Comets ran into similar problems earlier in the night in their tilt with the Lady Dawgs.
Van Buren's offensive rebounding proved key in this contest, as the Lady Comets saw the Lady Bulldogs get plenty of second-chance points, with Van Buren winning 60-49.
Alton moved in front right off the bat, sparked by a 3-ball to open the game from Amber Treptow (10 points).
With the game tied at 8-all at the two-minute mark of the first, Van Buren peeled off two straight scores to move in front for good, 12-8 after one.
Ashley Combs (11 points) broke free for six points in the second, but Lady Dawg Sara Hoskins had her way around the paint in the frame, cashing in seven points to help Van Buren to a 25-17 lead at the half.
As Van Buren's lead extended in the third, the Lady Comets fought back with Shelli Ellis on the baseline. Ellis tallied six of her team-high 13 points in the third period for Alton.
Down by 10, 37-27, at the 1:56 mark, the Lady Comets closed the third on a bit of a run.
Ellis knocked down a pair from the charity stripe, and Combs jacked a 3-ball to keep Van Buren from adding to their margin.
Alton found some success of its own in the paint early in the fourth period.
Samantha Allred (three points) got a deuce in the lane, and Lauren Hatten scored all seven of her points for the game in a two-minute span that saw Alton make a serious charge at the lead.
When Treptow drained two free throws with 5:22 left in the game, the Lady Comets had trimmed Van Buren's lead to 2, 46-44.
This is where the good news for Alton ended, along with a chance at victory.
Ripping off a 14-5 run to close the game, the Lady Bulldogs sealed the win by keeping the Lady Comets at bay down the home stretch,
Savanna Johnson logged four points for Alton.