You don't win championships without taking care of the basics.
Things like rebounding, controlling the clock, hitting open layups and knocking down free throws.
The Viola Longhorns did all these things, all in the last three minutes of a tightly-contested game, to win the 1A-2 North District Tournament title, 48-45, over the Mammoth Spring Bears Feb. 15 at Williford High School.
A layup by Mammoth Spring's Wes Davis (six points) had locked the championship game at 41-all with 3:28 remaining when top-seeded Viola pulled in front to stay.
Austin Springfield stuck back his own miss to edge Viola in front 43-41. Springfield led all scorers with 19 points on the night.
With the advantage tucked under their arm, the Longhorns (19-9) then spread the floor on their next possession, running off crucial seconds while also looking for an easy hoop.
While the Bears' defense played chase out on the perimeter, Jesse Shrable (eight points) continued his big second-half play by slipping backdoor to find that easy hoop, a wide-open layup with 32 ticks left that edged Viola's lead to four, 45-41.
Gage Busch (10 points) pulled second-seeded Mammoth Spring (19-12) closer with two charity tosses at the 18-second mark, but Viola would also hit its clutch free throws when the going got tough.
Kasey Humphries (13 points) hit a pair with 13 ticks left, but Seth Godwin (eight points, eight boards, five assists) answered with a driving layup that fell through the net with eight seconds showing to pull the Bears within two, 47-45.
Humphries nailed another big free throw to make Viola's lead three and Mammoth Spring called timeout with six ticks left, to set up a 3-point shot to send the game to overtime.
As it turns out, Mammoth Spring never got that shot attempt off. The Longhorns played stout defense around the arc and time expired before the Bears could do anything but pass the ball around, leaving Viola, regular-season champs in the 1A-2 North with a three-point victory and district tournament crown over the conference runners-up from Mammoth Spring.
The last few seconds of the night were as hotly-contested as the first ones were, with the lead switching teams eight times in the first half. A low-scoring first half.
It was evident from the game's outset what Mammoth Spring's plans for the night were. Take advantage of the Bears' size by dumping the ball down low to Busch, Davis and Trevor Vincent (10 points).
This worked early for the Bears, but Viola responded by unleashing Springfield and Lucas Rains (six points).
Rains hit a pair of buckets, Springfield dumped in a 3 and Humphries sank a layup to give Viola an 11-10 lead after one.
Undaunted, Mammoth Spring started the second with a 3-ball by Adam Watson and baseline hoop from Vincent that gave the Bears a 15-11 advantage.
Humphries and Springfield righted the Longhorn ship by jacking two treys in the second to push Viola ahead 19-17 at intermission.
Then Aaron Shipp got on track for Mammoth Spring in the third. Shipp scored all eight of his points for the game in the third, including back-to-back bombs from 3-land, the last one on a one-on-three fast break pullup, giving the Bears their biggest lead of the night, 29-22.
This lead shrank to four at period's end, as Humphries penetrated the lane with time running out on the clock, kicked the ball out to Shrable, who drained a big-time trey at the buzzer, carving Mammoth Spring's lead to 35-31 after three.
Viola knotted the game at 35-all on consecutive hoops by Marlin Coggins and Springfield to start the fourth. Then it was Springfield and Shrable who gave Viola the lead at 41-37 when the duo connected on back-to-back 3-pointers with 5:13 left to play.
Mammoth Spring managed to tie the proceedings at 41-all on hoops by Busch and Davis, but it was Viola that ended the night on top by three points, to post a hard-earned victory over the Bears.
Both Viola and Mammoth Spring advanced to the regional tournament at Brockwell.
Mammoth Spring advanced to the district tourney finals by knocking off Mount Pleasant 71-54 Feb. 14.
The Bears jumped in front 23-10, but the Bluebirds (20-9) came roaring back to outscore Mammoth Spring 19-13 in the third period to make it a game. Conor Lawrence turned in another outstanding performance for Mount Pleasant, as he scorched the nets for five treys and 17 points in the third period. Lawrence hit seven triples for the game on his way to a 31-point night.
But Vincent (22 points, eight rebounds) and Godwin (17 points, six assists) got busy in the fourth and helped Mammoth Spring regain control of the game.
Busch finished with 12 points and nine boards, while Shipp had 12 points and eight rebounds for the Bears. Davis tallied four and Watson three.
Jordan Hutchins ended the game with 11 points for the Bluebirds, while Caleb Daigle hit for four.
Dustin Heiskill, Abram Qualls, Corey Ferguson and Landon Downing recorded two points each for Mount Pleasant.