It took until the last game of the regular season for Highland Head Coach Chad Arnhart to say that to his team, but the smile on his face explained how important this game was to the Rebels.
Highland didn't hold a lead at any time during regulation play, but took the lead halfway through overtime to beat Izard County 42-40 at the Cougars' Den on Friday, Feb. 13.
Maybe paraskavedekatriaphobia was on the Rebs' side.
"Tonight, after a game like we had against Pocahontas and the way we lost, I didn't think we had our quickness," said Arnhart. "We had a little let down at first, but then in the second half we battled. Shots started falling and made some big plays down the stretch."
Highland had four winnable games this past week and nearly won three out of four, but the Rebels lost three home games to Newport, 56-40, on Feb. 9, an 81-72 overtime loss to Marmaduke on Feb. 10 and fell to Pocahontas, 60-58, on Matt Sullivan's buzzer-beating putback on Feb. 12.
Against Izard County, the Rebels were able to get off a lot of shots and snag a few offensive rebounds, but weren't able to get on the board until Josh Honey made one of two free throws at the 2:29 mark of the first quarter. Honey would also hit a 3 in the first period to complete Highland's scoring.
On the other hand, David Peck, Ryan Walker and Ethan Porter made their shots to get the Cougars out to a 9-4 advantage.
Senior Gage Wolford hit three of his four treys in the second to extend Izard County's lead to 20-11 at halftime.
"We played hard. We hit some big shots," said Cougar Head Coach David Harmon. "I thought our two guards hit some big 3s for us, especially Wolford up top."
The Rebels started the second half with an 11-2 run to get back into the game.
They tied the game twice in the third, but couldn't get the lead and finished the period down 30-27, because of Peck's buzzer 3-pointer.
The Cougars made their final points of the fourth at the 3:32 mark when Porter hit a 3 to give Izard County a 37-33 lead.
A couple of Cougar turnovers allowed Honey and Brad Harris to tie the game with less than a minute to go.
Kenny Nicholson hit a trey and Donnie French got a breakaway layup to get the Rebels their first win.
"I told the kids we fought hard, but when we look back and understand opportunities were missed and we should have won the ballgame," said Harmon.
Honey led Highland (1-21, 0-14 3-4A) with 14 points, followed by Nicholson and Landon Strobbe with nine each.
Porter had 13 points for ICC and Wolford 12.
Senior Justin Bryant was lost to an ankle injury during the Newport game and Zac Hamilton suffered a knee injury the previous week, leaving the Rebels shorthanded for the Marmaduke, Pocahontas and Izard County games. Arnhart turned to junior Ronnie Loftis to fill the gap.
The Pocahontas game will be remembered as a missed opportunity for Highland. Many will believe that the Rebels didn't get a chance to win it in overtime because Sullivan's putback was ruled good at the buzzer.
The Rebs entered the fourth quarter down just 43-41. The Rebels and Redskins exchanged leads four times before the three minute mark.
Harris hit four straight free throws to tie the game at 53-all. Jacob Callahan retook the lead for the Redskins with a bucket-plus-one. Honey hit a two and then sent Chris Bennett to the line for two free throws.
With 24 seconds left, Honey missed a layup that was rebounded by Harris who kicked it to Nicholson for the game-tying trey.
Highland called a timeout to setup its last defense. However, Sullivan snagged the 3-point rebound and let go as the buzzer sounded for the win.
Even though the Rebs had six straight turnovers to end the first quarter, Highland led 17-15.
The Redskins took their first lead of the game at the end of the second quarter, 29-28.
Highland had the lead halfway through the third, but a Pocahontas went on a 7-2 run to finish the quarter up 43-41.
Nicholson led the team with 14 points. Honey had 13 and French and Harris had 12 each.
Against Marmaduke, the Rebels took the lead with 40 seconds left in regulation on a Strobbe trey.
Strobbe stopped the Greyhounds' next drive by drawing an offense foul from Jacob Mason, but Highland couldn't score on its end.
Dexter Jordon fouled Strobbe on the ensuing rebound.
Strobbe missed the first free throw, but made the second to put the Rebs up three, 65-62, with 4.5 seconds left.
According to Arnhart, the Rebels were suppose to foul the ball carrier to send him to line for two, but Jordan zigged when the Rebels zagged and he made it down court in time to nail the 3-pointer sending the game to overtime.
The Greyhounds controlled overtime for the easy win.
Four Rebs were in double figures: Honey with 21, French with 18, Nicholson with 11 and Strobbe with 10.