Regardless of which side of the border they live on, basketball fans in northern Arkansas and southern Missouri got a rare treat Feb. 4, with two of the most explosive girls' teams in their respective states squaring off in non-conference hoops action at Bobcat Gymnasium in Thayer.
Heading into the border showdown, the Izard County Consolidated Lady Cougars had just completed a 12-0 run through the 2AA-North Conference behind the play of the dynamic duo of Brittney Richardson and Sammi Fowler, while the homestanding Lady Bobcats of Thayer had posted victories in 18 of their first 21 games on the season fueled by the hot-shooting tandem of LaShanda Horton and Micah Stevens.
But on this night, the visitors from Arkansas came out on top, as ICC held Thayer to just six points in the third period, turning a highly-competitive game into a 55-47 victory for the Lady Cougars.
Later on the evening, the Bobcats evened things up thanks to a big outing from Brett Ward, as Thayer knocked off the Cougars 66-41 in senior boys' play.
ICC's Brittney Richardson wasted little time in showing the folks assembled at Thayer why she had secured a scholarship offer from the University of Arkansas this past summer.
Richardson tossed in the Lady Cougars' first 10 points of the game, including a pair of triples, helping ICC to a 10-5 lead early in the first period. Richardson paced all scorers with a game-high 25.
The Lady Bobcats, too, are blessed with the ability to score points in a hurry, especially from beyond the 3-point arc.
First, Micah Stevens (11 points) jacked a 3-ball, then Krysta Adams chimed in with two trifectas of her own, and with 1:29 left in the first, the two sides were squared at 13-all. Adams paced Thayer with a team-high 16 points, including four 3-pointers.
A 3-ball from Chelsie Yancey (five points) pushed the Lady Cougs on top 20-15, but Brittany Allen (five points) broke free for a Thayer layup at the buzzer, leaving ICC on top 20-17 after the first period.
The first six minutes of the second period saw more long-distance fireworks from the home team, as the Lady Cats took their first lead of the game, 25-24, via a trey apiece from Adams and LaShanda Horton (nine points).
ICC briefly retook the lead on a leaner in the lane from Richardson, but Stevens had the last say on the first half with a jumper that took the teams to intermission with Thayer on top by one, 27-26.
As hard as the Lady Cats had worked to grab the lead in the second period, it all slipped away in the third.
Thayer went scoreless for the first 6:40 of the frame, and posted just six points total in the stanza, allowing ICC to move on top to stay.
Yancey started the third off with a stickback for the Lady Cougars, starting a 10-0 run for ICC.
Brittney Bailey (eight points) chipped in with a charity toss in the ICC sprintout, while Sammi Fowler (16 points) kicked with five points of her own.
The Lady Bobcats had plenty of second-chance opportunities in the third, as they hit the offensive glass hard. But getting the ball to stay in the hoop was another matter entirely.
Horton finally broke the Lady Cougar run with a free throw at the 1:20 mark, with Thayer down 36-28.
Autumn Forschler nailed a baseline hoop late in the frame, and Horton buried a 3 to pull the Lady Cats, despite their struggles earlier in the frame, to within six, 39-33, with 10 seconds left.
Fowler gave the Lady Cougars a dose of momentum by canning a triple at the buzzer, pushing ICC on top 42-33 after three.
Thayer had one late push left in its arsenal for the stretch run in the fourth.
Opening the final frame with a 12-4 run, including two long-range bombs from Adams and Allen, the Lady Bobcats managed to pull within a single point, 46-45, with 2:35 left in the game.
As it turned out, the Lady Cougars were prepared to answer Thayer's late charge and outscored the Lady Cats 9-2 from that point on, ending a highly-entertaining contest with an eight-point victory.
Leathyr Spangler finished with one point for ICC.
Heather Coffel posted two points for the Lady Bobcats.
In boys' action, Brett Ward proved to be too much of a beast down low for the Cougars to contend with.
Ward led Thayer with a game-high 29 points, most coming in the paint, as the Bobcats bested ICC 66-41.
Layne Hawkins played outside complement to Ward's inside presence by nailing three triples on his way to 19 points for the Cats.
Ward got Thayer off on strong footing by logging the Bobcats' first eight points of the night, helping his team to an 8-2 lead in the first period.
The Cougars had some trouble getting things rolling in the first, as ICC recorded just six points in the frame.
Down 11-2, James Morgan (six points) and Adam Montgomery (three) hit a pair of late hoops, ending the first period with the Bobcats ahead 13-6.
Joey Stefka started the second with a bucket for the Cougs, but then M.J. Clark (nine points) made sure ICC didn't get too comfortable by busting back-to-back 3-balls for Thayer.
Jonathan Quillman gave ICC a low-post spark midway into the second, as he worked his way to a pair of hoops in the lane. Quillman led the Cougars with nine points on the night.
Hawkins hit Thayer's last three points of the first half from the charity stripe, giving the Bobcats a 26-15 advantage at intermission.
Curtis Clark came out of ICC's locker room on a mission in the third period, posting all seven of his points for the game in the first four minutes of the frame.
Despite Clark's work on the baseline, ICC still trailed 32-27 when Thayer put the game away with a flurry in the last three minutes of the third.
The Cats recorded four straight 3-point plays to put the game out of reach. Ward and Hawkins turned in a pair of old-fashioned 3-point plays during this stretch, while Hawkins and Clark banged in a 3-ball each, helping Thayer to a 46-29 lead after three.
Thayer maintained this margin in the fourth, and ended the night with a 66-41 win.
Jacob Sims and Justin Cooper posted three points each for Thayer, while Bret Cotham added two. Blake Horton and Lance Schneider hit for one point apiece for the Bobcats.
Scott Small logged six points for ICC, with Kyle McCandlis adding five, and Jeremy Burns three.
In junior varsity boys' action, the JV Bobcats topped the JV Cougars 42-24.
Jacob Eckman paced Thayer with 12 points, while Lance Schneider followed with 11, and Blake Horton seven. Jason White logged five, and Ryan Veatch finished with three. Garrett Smith and Luke Martin tallied two points each for Thayer.
Anthony Shipman led the JV Cougars with eight, with Steven Walker, Colton Selph and Zac DeSanto hitting for four points each. Michael Martin and Jeremy Burns finished with two points apiece for ICC.