Melbourne answers Rural Special challenge with impressive comeback
As most outdoor enthusiasts know, one of the most dangerous things you can do is get a wildcat backed into a corner with nowhere to turn. Chances are, if you do this, you'll end up getting hurt.
This can also be true on the hardwood courts inside a gymnasium, as the Rural Special Rebels found out Feb. 13 at Melbourne.
Not only did the Rebels have the Bearkatz pinned in a corner, they also had them by the tail before Melbourne broke free and clawed their way past Rural Special for a 74-64 victory.
The game proved to be a classic heavyweight battle between two of the state's top teams, Melbourne (33-1), ranked number five in Class AA, and Rural Special (21-5), the number nine team in Class A.
Rural Special seemed intent on avenging a 20-point loss to Melbourne in the third place game of the NAC tourney in January by taking control of the game before the half, only to see the Bearkatz mount one impressive comeback.
Up 40-29 at halftime, the Rebels continued to pour on the coals early in the third period, building their margin to 45-31 with 6:54 left in the frame.
Instead of folding, Melbourne gutted it out and turned up the defense pressure on Rural Special.
A blocked shot by Levi Taylor. A steal by Jordan Davidson. A loose ball snagged by Cody Moser. A trap in the corner from Hunter Caraway and Andy Miller.
When the stunned Rebels realized what happened to them, their 14-point lead had turned into a seven-point deficit, with Melbourne on top 54-47 after three.
Not only did the Bearkatz hound Rural Special on the defensive end, they also started clicking on offense in the third.
A 23-2 Melbourne run in the frame was keyed by 12 points from Taylor inside the paint.
Not only did he pace the Bearkatz with 29 points, Taylor also held the Rebels' big post presence, William Knapp, to 16 points on the evening, despite playing most of the game in foul trouble.
A 3-ball from Moser (five points) late in the third, aided by a Jordan Davidson (19 points) layup, gave Melbourne a seven-point advantage to start the final period of play.
Not wanting to ease up on the always-dangerous Rebels, the Bearkatz opened the fourth period with an eight-zip run started with a two-handed jam by Taylor.
Taylor then fed Davidson for a pair of hoops, before Davidson returned the favor with an alley-oop to Taylor, staking Melbourne to a 62-47 lead.
Knapp finally broke the ice for Rural Special, scoring the first Rebel hoop in a span of almost eight minutes at the 5:07 mark of the third.
This second-half drought was unlike the first two periods of play, when the Rebels held serve for most of the first half.
On top 17-15 after the first period, Rural Special built onto this lead with an 8-2 run to open the second period.
Taylor fought back inside the paint for the Bearkatz, posting Melbourne's first 10 points of the second frame.
The Rebels closed the first half by spurting out to an 11-2 run to take their biggest lead of the half, 40-29 at intermission.
Not wanting to end senior night with a homecourt loss, the Bearkatz came out inspired for the game's final 16 minutes, capping an intense comeback with a win that should add some momentum as they head into the post season.
Caraway tallied 10 points for Melbourne, while Andrew Treat finished with seven. Miller added three, and Nick Davidson one point for the Bearkatz.
The Lady Bearkatz ended their season with a little different result on senior night -- a 52-37 loss to the Lady Rebels.
The first period set the tone for the remainder of the game, with Rural Special closing the frame on a 9-zip run to lead 14-5 after one.
Not wanting to go out so quietly, the Lady Bearkatz rallied a bit in the second period behind the play of Jackie Wommack.
Wommack was relentless on the boards in the second, ending the period with seven of her team-high 15 points in the frame.
The Lady Rebels stopped a 7-0 Lady Bearkat run with a trey at the buzzer that put Rural Special on top 27-15 at the half.
Christina Gillihan (five points) got Melbourne off on the right foot to start the third period with a trey, but the Lady Rebels answered with seven straight points to keep the Lady Bearkatz at bay.
Melbourne did finish the third strong, with a mini 6-2 run, including a hoop by Kirby Loggains (nine points), but Rural Special held a 38-28 lead going into the fourth.
Loggains drained a triple that pulled Melbourne within nine, 40-31, early in the frame. That turned out to be the Lady Bearkatz' last shot from the floor until the 54-second mark of the fourth, with the Lady Rebels besting Melbourne 52-37.
Kristin Teague and Larissa Christensen finished with two points each for Melbourne.