The Izard County Cougars had little use for suspense or drama in the championship game of the 1A-2 South District Tournament Feb. 16 at Melbourne High School.
So instead of making those in attendance in the jam-packed Berakatz Barn sweat out a nail-biting finish, the powerful Cougars delivered a haymaker to Norfork in the game's opening minutes and cruised to a 59-40 victory over the Panthers, giving Izard County yet another district tourney title to go along with the team's undefeated ride through the conference ranks this year. The victory was also extra-special, as it marked Head Coach David Harmon's 300 win at Izard County.
Defense was the straw that stirred the Cougars' win on this night, as Izard County was all over third-seeded Norfork from the get-go.
The Cougars (28-6) limited the Panthers to three field goals and a total of eight points in the first half of the game.
Norfork (16-16) just could not solve Izard County's full-court pressure, and on the rare occasion in the first period that the Panthers did get the ball into the paint, Scott Small was there to send it back with a couple of swift rejections.
The Cougars, however, had no such trouble scoring and Izard County's first three field goals of the night were all triples. One from Chase Massey (18 points), followed by back-to-back 3-point jacks from Kyle McCandlis. McCandlis led all scorers with 21 points for the game.
Norfork's lone field goal of the first period was a 3-pointer from Joey Swindle at the 4:55 mark of the frame.
Izard County closed the stanza on an 11-zip burst to take a commanding 15-3 lead after one.
It was more of the same in the second, as Massey hit a layup and Spencer Caraway (five points, five assists) got a floater in the lane to fall in. Small (eight points, 10 boards) kicked in with a layup and McCandlis busted his third trifecta of the first half to push Izard County in front of a bewildered Norfork 29-7.
Izard County held a 32-8 lead at intermission.
By the standards they sat in the first half, the Panthers had a virtual eruption on offense in the third period, scoring 17 points in the stanza.
This didn't concern the Cougars much at all, as Izard County remained on top 48-24 after three.
With a 24-point cushion heading into the final frame, Izard County coasted to a 59-40 victory over Norfork to gain the top spot in the regional tournament at Brockwell.
Curtis Clark, Steven Walker and Jeremy Burns finished with two points apiece for the Cougars.
The Cougars stopped fourth-seeded Calico Rock 68-44 Feb. 14 behind 17 points, five assists and four steals from McCandlis.
Massey chipped in with 16 points and four assists, while Caraway added 14 points and Clark 10.
The second-seeded Melbourne Bearkatz (16-9) fell to Norfork in a tight 53-51 game Feb. 14.
Michael Lunsford racked up 25 points for the Katz.