The Thayer Bobcats found themselves in a familiar spot Dec. 29 -- the finals of the Cabool Holiday Basketball Tournament.
Just like clockwork, the Cats once again had little trouble reaching the championship game of the week-long tourney, something they have done since the inception of the annual event.
But Thayer also found itself in uncharted waters Dec. 29 -- trailing for most of the contest.
However, in the end, the Bobcats ran their season mark to a perfect 12-0 with a 44-41 victory over the Eminence Redwings for first place in the Cabool Tourney.
Second-seeded Thayer had been forced to play catch-up for most of the night, as the top-seeded Redwings jumped in front with an early 15-9 lead after the first eight minutes of play.
Just like a hammer, the Cats kept smashing away at the Redwings, and at the halftime break, Thayer had edged within two, down 22-20.
The gap stood at one after three periods of play and the Bobcats finally were able to nudge in front for the first time, 31-30, with 5:54 left in the game.
The fourth period was where Thayer made its mark, with the Cats outscoring Eminence 15-11 in the last frame to post a 3-point victory.
In the semi-final round Dec. 28, the Bobcats whomped third-seeded Sparta 63-35 by turning a fairly close affair in the third period into a blowout in the fourth.
The Trojans trailed by just seven points, 33-26, with 4:58 left in the third when the Cats hit the gas and pulled away.
Blake Horton (20 points) started a 10-run with an old-fashioned 3-point play, followed by a 3-ball by Lance Schneider (18 points) and pair of free throws from Matt Kojdecki.
Schneider was named the Tournament MVP, while Horton also played his way to All-Tournament honors for Thayer.
And since he started the run, it was only fitting that Horton finish it. And finish it he did, hitting a spinning scoop shot in the lane right before the buzzer sounded to give Thayer a 43-28 lead after three.
Down big, Sparta didn't help its cause any by opening the fourth with two unforced turnovers, allowing the Bobcats to get their fast break churning at full speed.
Thayer ripped off a big 9-0 run in the fourth to turn what had been a tight game into a 20-point lead for the Bobcats.
Beating the Trojans easily down the floor for layup after layup in the final frame, Thayer cruised to a 63-35 hammering of Sparta.
A big first period push helped the Bobcats to a big lead early, forcing Sparta to play catch up all night long.
After Sparta scored the opening hoop of the game, Thayer kicked its offense into high gear and hit the Trojans with a slick 15-0 run to set the tone for the remaining three periods.
And while Thayer's offense was certainly impressive during this stretch, what may have been even more important to the Cats' cause was their effort on the defensive end of the floor.
The Bobcats took charges, forced traveling violations, tipped passes, and when Sparta's big 6-6 center, Jared McKnight, caught the ball in the paint, Thayer collapsed on him, causing him to make bad decisions with the basketball.
Sparta broke Thayer's 15-0 run in the first with a hoop from Will Gibbons, but the Cats closed the frame strong with a putback and free throw from Garrett Smith (11 points) and layup by Horton that gave Thayer a commanding 20-7 lead after one.
Sparta regrouped long enough in the second to outscore Thayer 13-11 in the stanza, but the Bobcats' big gain in the first period still allowed them to take a 31-20 lead into the halftime break.
Then after the Trojans managed to shave a few more points off the Bobcats' lead midway into the third, Thayer got serious and put Sparta away in the fourth.
Michael Lowther finished with six points for Thayer, while Jacob Eckman had four and Ryan Tate two.
In the second round on Dec. 27, the Bobcats topped the Couch Indians for the second time on the year, winning 51-35.
Schneider paced Thayer with 13 points, while Horton added 11.
It was all Thayer in the opening round Dec. 26, as the Bobcats blew the doors off the Lutie Indians with a 92-16 thrashing.