Baskets and, for that matter, points of any kind were rarer than recent hit singles for Michael Jackson in the finals of the 2005 Van Buren Lady Dawg Classic Dec. 3.
With points at a premium, the third-seeded Van Buren Lady Bulldogs used big period-opening runs in each of the last three frames to knock off top-seeded Couch 41-31.
Van Buren put together a 12-0 run to open the second, a 9-0 run to start the third and a 6-0 push early in the fourth to thwart any chance the Lady Indians had at winning the championship.
For a good chunk of the first half it looked as though the basketball goals at each end had been replaced by dart boards, with both squads tossing shots at the board with nothing sticking.
Van Buren got a layup to start the game, and the next points of the night did not occur until Caitlyn Melton (four points) dropped in a pair of free throws at the 4:26 mark of the first.
After another long stretch of turnovers and off-the-mark shots that plagued both teams, Kassi Burr wrapped up the first period scoring with a 3-ball at the 2:29 point of the first, pushing the Lady Indians on top 5-2 after one.
In a theme that would play itself out the duration of the evening, Van Buren, while still not sharp on offense, managed to string together 12 unanswered points to start the second, helping the Lady Bulldogs take a 14-5 lead with 3:16 left until the half.
Next, it was Couch's turn at a little bit of offensive success.
Kandy York hit a layup at the 2:44 point of the second for Couch's first points in the frame. York led the Lady Indians in scoring with nine points for the game.
This layup started an 8-0 run that saw Couch right back in the thick of things, with the Lady Indians trailing by just one, 14-13, at the half.
But, as they found out, every time the Lady Indians would gain ground on Van Buren, the Lady Bulldogs would string a few buckets together to keep Couch at arm's length.
Sara Hoskins came up especially big for Van Buren by tossing in 14 of her game-high 20 points in the second half of play, helping the Lady Bulldogs control the glass at both ends of the court.
After running out to a 10-point lead late in the third, Van Buren looked to have things well in hand. That is until Couch pulled itself back into contention with a spurt all its own.
Taking advantage of Van Buren's sloppy ball handling deep in the third, Couch reeled off a 9-zip run that once again saw the Lady Indians trailing by two, 25-23, after three.
With so much effort expended just to keep things close, the Lady Indians fell victim to another fast period-opening start by Van Buren in the fourth.
With six straight points, the Lady Bulldogs had pushed back in front by eight, 31-23, with 7:00 left in the game.
Couch just couldn't answer with a run of its own and Van Buren moved in front by double digits and ended the game on top of the Lady Indians by 10 points, leaving Couch with a second-place finish in the tournament.
Sandy LaBahn and Tara Combs finished with five points each for Couch, while Sammantha LaBahn added three.
With a 51-42 win over Big Spring Conference rival Alton in the semi-final round Dec. 1, Couch advanced to the championship game.
Sandy LaBahn's 16 points paced the Lady Indians to victory, while York chipped in with 15.
The Lady Indians opened tourney play by drilling the Mountain View/Birch Tree Liberty Lady Eagles 68-42 Nov. 28.
Full-court pressure from Couch kept the Lady Eagles on their heels all night long, as Liberty struggled to get the ball across half-court, and when they did, the Lady Indians were more than eager to swipe it and head downcourt for easy hoops.
Couch held a 16-8 lead after the first period thanks to a pair of 6-zip runs in the frame.
In front 20-14 at the 3:53 point of the second period, the Lady Indians left Liberty in the dust with back-to-back-to-back triples right before intermission.
Tara Combs (13 points) drained the first one and was followed by 3-balls from Traci Murdock (nine points) Burr (11 points) that boosted Couch's advantage to 34-14 at the half. Couch closed the first half on a 14-0 run by holding the Lady Eagles scoreless for a five and a half minute span in the second.
After scoring just 14 points during the first two periods of play, Liberty did come alive a bit by posting 20 points in the third period alone.
However, Couch didn't let up and the Lady Indians scored 22 in the third to take a comfortable 56-34 lead into the final frame, en route to a 68-42 victory over the eighth-seeded Lady Eagles.
York tallied seven points for Couch, while Samantha LaBahn added six, and Sandy LaBahn five. Taylor Hanser followed with four points, with Melton and Sadee Risner logging three points apiece. Sara Smiedala and Lorra Wicker followed with two points each, and Courtney Redus had one for the Lady Indians.