If the Izard County Consolidated Cougars had only known how hot it was at John A. Cooper Memorial Gymnasium Feb. 7, they would have brought along the Brockwell Volunteer Fire Department, or at the very least, a pair of oven mitts.
As it turned out, nothing short of a fleet of tanker trucks could have cooled off Highland's Cody Seward on this night. Seward fired in a game-high 29 points, including a scorching seven treys, as the Rebels knocked off the visiting Cougars 69-58 in non-conference hoops action.
Earlier in the evening, the Lady Rebels managed to push past the Lady Cougars 77-54, despite an outstanding afternoon's worth of work from ICC's Brittney Richardson, who rang up 31 points in the loss.
In boys' action, there was just too much Seward for the Cougars to get past. After ringing up two treys in the first period, Seward then hit one in the second, three in the third, and for good measure, one more in the final frame of play. For the game, the two hot-shooting squads combined for 14 triples.
The Cougars didn't exactly make the trip to Sharp County without some firepower of their own. ICC's Michael Martin had a huge night off the bench, entering the game in the second period and posting 18 points from that point on to lead the Cougars in scoring.
The Rebels grabbed hold of the game early in the first frame, moving in front 16-6 behind Seward's first two 3-balls of the game.
Preston King (13 points) added a 3-pointer of his own, and by the time the period ended, Highland appeared to be headed toward a runaway victory.
However, the Cougars didn't break the 20-win mark this season by folding under pressure, and they regrouped big-time to open the second period.
Martin started the frame with a pair of free throws for the Cougs, and Kyle McCandlis (10 points) then canned his second trey of the game. After four straight points from Adam Montgomery, Martin slipped inside for a layup at the 5:22 point of the second.
When the smoke cleared, ICC had opened the second period with a big 11-0 run that squared the game at 21-all.
Highland's first hoop of the frame came via a layup from Preston King, and then Seward went back to work to post his third trifecta for the game.
With the Rebels on top 35-30 deep in the second, Joey Stefka (13 points) added to the Cougars' fast start to the second with a big finish in the frame by blasting a 3-pointer at the horn, bringing his squad within two, 35-33, at the half.
This shot of momentum for the Cougars faded a bit as the Rebels finally put some distance between themselves and ICC in the third.
Alan Price (seven points) hit a 3 for Highland to open the frame, and then Seward rang up three more in the period, as Highland moved on top to stay.
With Highland up 47-44 at the 3:05 mark, Joe Herum (eight points) started a period-ending 10-2 run for the Rebels, giving the home team a 55-46 advantage after three.
The Cougars got as close as six points on a couple of occasions in the fourth, but the Rebels managed to keep ICC at bay long enough to post a 69-58 victory.
Daniel Jones finished with 10 points for the Rebels, while Devon Melbourne tallied two.
Curtis Clark posted six points for ICC, with Jonathan Quillman hitting for four, and Scott Small three.
On the girls' side of things, a good, old-fashioned shootout was likely won at the free throw line for Highland.
Striding to the charity stripe 25 times on the game, the Lady Rebels missed just twice, paving the way for an impressive win over the Lady Cougars.
A spirited first half of play looked a lot like a showdown between Courtney Sublett and Brittney Richardson.
Sublett turned in a 14-point performance, including four triples, in the first two periods of play for Highland, while Richardson countered with 14 points in the first half for the Lady Cougars (27-6). Sublett ended the night with 22 points, with Richardson posting a game-high 31 for ICC.
But it was Sublett's big first period that got the Lady Rebs off to a quick start.
Sublett knocked in three triples, while Amber Watson (15 points) added one, giving Highland four 3-balls, and a 12-5 lead in the game's first three minutes of play.
ICC jumped back in the fray with a 7-0 run deep in the frame, but a pair of old-fashioned 3-point plays from Molly Carpenter (11 points) and Anna Street (nine points), gave Highland a 22-14 lead after a high-scoring first eight minutes of action.
Meagan Smith (six points) helped the Lady Rebs keep the lead with a couple of big shots in the second.
After Richardson had pulled ICC within four points, 22-18, on back-to-back hoops to start the second, Smith came off the bench for Highland and hit a jumper and 3-pointer to help build the Lady Rebs' lead back to nine, 29-20.
With Highland on top 33-24 at the 1:20 mark, ICC ran off five straight points, capped by a layup by Brittney Bailey (three points) at the 10-second mark, bringing the Lady Cougars closer, down 33-29.
However, if there's a buzzer about to sound, there's a basketball in the hands of Courtney Sublett.
Just as she has done so many times this year, Sublett nailed a last-second, long-distance 3-ball at the halftime horn, giving the Lady Rebels a 36-29 advantage at intermission.
The halftime break didn't cool Richardson off any, as she continued to put the ball in the hoop in the second half. But the Lady Cougars just couldn't seem to make up any ground on Highland.
Watson opened the third with back-to-back 3-pointers for the Lady Rebels, as Highland extended its lead.
A layup by Kayla Evans (10 points) with 2:40 left in the third gave Highland its biggest lead to that point, 53-37.
Leathyr Spangler (four points) hit a pair of free throws for ICC with nine ticks showing on the clock, but the Lady Cougars trailed 57-41 after three.
The charity stripe turned out to be Highland's biggest ally in the final frame.
Highland posted just two field goals in the fourth period, but the Lady Rebels did drain 14 free throws in the stanza to emerge with a 77-54 victory over the Lady Cougars.
Erika Lozano and Callye Morris finished with two points each for Highland.
Sammi Fowler logged eight points for ICC, while Chelsie Yancey tallied four. Courtney Blevins and Haley Crotts hit for two points apiece for the Lady Cougars.