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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

A perfect ending

Thursday, February 19, 2009

CLUTCH: Wayne Coffey slips past the Izard County defense for a hoop in Mammoth Spring's victory in the finals of the 1A-2 North Junior High District Tournament Feb. 14. Photo/Mullins
It made perfect sense.

In their quest for a perfect season, the Mammoth Spring junior Bears found the perfect opponent standing in their way.

The Izard County junior Cougars.

Mammoth Spring had won the previous four meetings with Izard County this year in perfectly heart-stopping fashion.

Three games saw the margin of victory at two points for the junior Bears, while the other clash found Mammoth Spring on top by four points.

Not exactly blowouts.

So with an undefeated season and the 1A-2 North Junior High District Tournament title riding on the outcome of date number five between Mammoth Spring and Izard County, there was a whole lot of the same stuff on the hardwood that made the first four battles so memorable.

And for the junior Bears, it was a perfect ending to a perfect season Feb. 14 at the Longhorns Corral in Viola.

Mammoth Spring survived a hailstorm of junior Cougar treys in the second half of the game to edge past Izard County 44-42 in overtime.

With the victory, the regular season conference champs from Mammoth Spring notched the district tournament title and finished with an unblemished 29-0 record for the season.

But win number 29 was anything but a gimmee.

The junior Cougars (21-7) caught fire from behind the 3-point arc in the second half of play and six of Izard County's seven field goals in the second half were triples.

Mammoth Spring was on top 37-34 with 2:24 left in the fourth period when a dose of shaky free throw shooting caught up with the junior Bears. They missed the front end of two straight one-and-ones to leave the door open for Izard County.

And boy, did Izard County take full advantage of that.

Especially Preston Harmon.

Harmon (11 points) drilled a long 3-pointer with 32 ticks left and was also hacked on the shot. Harmon came up short on his charity toss, but his 3-ball locked the game at 37-all.

Mammoth Spring had the last opportunity to win the game in regulation, but a baseline jumper under pressure missed the mark, sending the game into overtime.

Garrett Wooldridge (12 points) opened the extra frame by draining a baseline jumper that pushed the junior Bears in front 39-37. Then, with 35 seconds left, Wooldridge hit a shot down the middle of the lane that eased Mammoth Spring in front 41-37.

Josh Ball cut two points off Mammoth Spring's lead with a pair of free throws that came with 24 ticks remaining on the clock.

Wayne Coffey (15 points) hit two freebies and Matt Turnbough added one with seven seconds left to extend Mammoth Spring's cushion to 44-39.

But Izard County was not ready to pack things up just yet.

Harmon nailed a huge triple from the top of the key that pushed through the net with 2.4 seconds showing on the clock, pulling Izard County within two, 44-42.

However, that was the end of the junior Cougars' rally. Mammoth Spring inbounded the ball and ran the clock out on a thrilling 44-42 victory.

While the junior Cougs were prolific behind the arc in the second half, the junior Bears hit just one trey in that span.

But it was a big one.

With Izard County on top 32-30 early in the fourth, Houston Cooper (eight assists) pulled up and sank a 3-ball, his only field goal of the night, to put the junior Bears in front 33-32.

The junior Cougars first three field goals of the third period were all triples, two from Trenton Hatman (11 points), and one by Jordan Everett (seven points).

A trey from Harmon at the buzzer gave the junior Cougars a 32-28 lead after three.

The way the first period started, it looked like Mammoth Spring might run away and hide.

Mason Brown (six points) hit a pair of 3-pointers, Coffey added two buckets and Wooldridge got free for a layup, giving Mammoth Spring a 12-2 lead with 2:08 left in the first.

Hatman hit a shot from behind the 3-point line and Kyle King (nine points) tossed in a layup late, but Mammoth Spring held a 14-7 cushion heading into the second period.

Izard County pulled within four points, 18-14, in the second, but Coffey scored the last three points of the half to boost the junior Bears to a 22-16 advantage at intermission.

The junior Cougars kept plugging away and took their first lead midway into the third period and held a two-point lead early in the fourth.

But in the end, even though it took an extra three minutes, Mammoth Spring survived a strong effort from Izard County to end the year with a perfect 29-0 mark.

Austin Hite finished with four points for the junior Bears, with Jordan Combs finishing with three.

Chris King tallied two points for Izard County.

The junior Bears knocked off Viola 48-16 in the semis Feb. 12.

Wooldridge led the way with 15 points, while Coffey had 10.

Dolan Johnston paced Viola with six points.

The junior Cougars topped Norfork 42-33 in the semi-final round Feb. 12.

Josh Ball scored 14 points for Izard County, with Everett and Hatman logging 11 points each. King had six points.

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