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Cougars hit stride, blast way to Izard County Tourney title

Thursday, February 2, 2006

Sometimes even a high-powered machine needs a jump start to get it going.

A jump start is just exactly what the Izard County Consolidated Cougars used to get their high octane offense going in the third period of the championship game of the 2006 Izard County Invitational Tournament Jan. 28 at the Bluebirds' Nest in Mount Pleasant.

Engaged in a tight battle with the seventh-seeded Mammoth Springs Bears over the course of the first two periods of action, the top-seeded Cougars broke free after the halftime break to claim the tournament crown with a big 64-42 win.

The first period was tight going, with Mammoth Spring using the same gumption it used to upset Cushman, the number two seed, in the first round of the tourney, as the Bears kept pace with the high-flying Cougars early.

After an Adam Montgomery (eight points) jumper had pushed ICC in front 12-8 midway into the first, the Bears' long-distance brigade went to work.

First, Ethan Gaines (four points) drained a 3-ball, and then Zach Sims (five points) pulled the same trick, dropping in a triple that squared the contest at 14-all after one.

Joey Stefka came out firing on all cylinders for the Cougars in the second, knocking down his squad's first five points of the frame on his way to a game-high 17 on the night.

The last minute-and-a-half of the second period was filled with long-range bombs.

Kyle McCandlis (13 points) boosted ICC's advantage to 26-22 with a layup, but Aaron Shipp (five points) responded with a trey that pulled the Bears within one, 26-25, with 1:30 left until the half.

As part of an "anything you can do, I can do better" challenge, McCandlis drained a long 3-ball next time downcourt for the Cougars.

After a stickback by Cameron Kent (10 points) had clipped two more points off ICC's lead, McCandlis slammed the door shut on the first half with his second trifecta in a minutes' time, sending the Cougars to the half with a 32-27 lead.

It this point it looked as though Mammoth Spring had run out of gas, while ICC came out in the third with a full tank, ready to roll.

The Bears didn't help their cause any with a couple of quick turnovers to start the second half, two turnovers that Scott Small (eight points) and Stefka turned into four points for the Cougars, giving them a running start to the second half.

During the first four minutes of the third, ICC outscored Mammoth Spring 14-3 to grab a commanding 16-point lead, breaking what had been a competitive game wide open.

Tyler Mitchell (three points) stopped the Cougar run with a jumper, but ICC simply closed the third with an 8-4 spurt to hold serve by 20, 54-34, after three. Zac DeSanto finished the third in style for the Cougars with a 3-pointer at the horn.

The Bears were just in too big a hole to start the fourth, and ICC hit cruise control and ended the night by taking the Izard County Tourney trophy back to Brockwell.

Curtis Clark finished with nine points for the Cougars, while James Morgan added four, and Anthony Shipman two.

Gage Busch and Addison Guy posted six points each for the Bears, while Corey Godwin hit for two, and Segan Underwood one for Mammoth Spring.



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