Kyle McCandlis made sure the Izard County Consolidated Cougars got off to a good start against the Bay Yellowjackets in the quarterfinals of the A-AA brackets Dec. 27 in the NEA Tournament in Jonesboro.
Joey Stefka made sure the Cougars ended the game on a positive note, as the seventh-seeded Cougars upset number-two seeded Bay 68-53, earning ICC a date with Cave City in the tourney's semi-final round.
McCandlis dropped in three treys in the first period, on his way to a team-high 19 points for the game, while Stefka sank nine free throws in the fourth period to keep Bay at bay. Stefka finished with 15 points on the afternoon. For the game, the Cougars scorched the nets for 74-percent shooting from the floor, and 78-percent shooting from the charity stripe.
After Bay took a 2-0 lead to start the game, it was all Cougars the rest of the way, as ICC grabbed the reigns and never let go.
In addition to McCandlis' three 3-balls in the first frame, James Morgan (10 points) added a shot from beyond the arc, helping the Cougs to an 18-13 lead after the first period.
ICC's lead stood at two, 22-20, midway into the third, when Dustin Noblin tossed in five straight points that boosted the Cougars' margin to seven, 27-20.
The Yellowjackets closed the half with a 5-2 burst that narrowed ICC's lead to 29-25 at intermission.
The Cougars kept Bay from getting any closer in the third thanks to a pair of mini-runs early in the frame.
McCandlis went on a personal 5-zip run, while Jonathan Quillman (nine points) ripped off five straight points that saw ICC open a 41-29 advantage with 4:35 left in the period.
Curtis Clark added a pair of hoops down the stretch in the third, and ICC took a 52-37 lead into the final frame.
The Yellowjackets opened the fourth with a full-court, trapping defense that gave the Cougars problems, but Bay just couldn't string together enough buckets to whittle into ICC's double-digit lead.
With Bay forced to foul in hopes of extending the game, Stefka took full advantage by cashing in at the charity stripe in the fourth, as ICC knocked the Yellowjackets out of the tournament with a big 15-point victory.
Scott Small tallied six points for the Cougars.