The Fair Grove Eagles may be tall and tough when it comes to the space right under the hoop, but the Eagles are also pretty steady hands from a bit farther out, too.
Fair Grove's Britton Derrick sank seven-of-eight free throws in the last two minutes of play, helping the top-seeded Eagles hold off eighth-seeded Thayer 60-48 in the quarterfinals of the Cabool Holiday Tournament Dec. 28.
Although Fair Grove did enjoy a size advantage over the Bobcats, Thayer stuck with the bigger Eagles for most of the contest, but could never pull ahead long enough to hold the lead for very long.
The Cats' lone lead of the game came early in the first, with Fair Grove leading 4-0.
Jared Foley drilled a 3-ball and Josh Huckabee (five points) stuck back a missed shot to give Thayer a 5-4 lead.
But the Eagles then ripped off nine unanswered points to climb on top 13-5.
Tommy Martin (seven points) halted the Fair Grove run with a trey, but when the first period ended, the Eagles were ahead 17-9.
The second period saw the Bobcats get a pair of jumpers from Ricky Smith (10 points), along with a deuce by Austin Henry (four points), that edged Thayer within six, down 21-15.
But just like in the first, Fair Grove responded with five straight points to keep Thayer at bay.
The Bobcats found the lane around the rim was a rough place to be, with Fair Grove's big front line keeping Thayer from having much success along the baseline in the game.
Justin Shipp (five points) blasted a triple, but the Eagles used back-to-back 3-pointers of their own to extend their lead to 34-20.
Thayer closed the first half strong, thanks to a 3 from Dylan Dennis (four points) and putback by Heath Barbee (10 points), leaving the Eagles on top 34-25 at intermission.
The Bobcats kept trying to chip away at Fair Grove's cushion in the second half, but Thayer trailed by 10, 43-33, after three periods of play.
This margin stayed largely the same through the game's last eight minutes of action.
The Cats did pull within nine points, 53-44, on an inside move by Barbee with 1:48 left on the clock.
But the Eagles turned to Derrick and the charity stripe to put the game on ice.
Derrick led all scorers with a game-high 17 points.
Fair Grove's trip to the finals was derailed by Norwood, 46-39 in the semi-final round Dec. 29.
The Pirates captured the tourney title with a 62-39 lashing of Dora in the championship game Dec. 30.
Thayer bounced back from its setback to Fair Grove by pushing past Mountain View/Birch Tree Liberty, 57-47, in the fifth-place game Dec. 30. Thayer routed Eminence 58-38 Dec. 29 to earn a date with Liberty.
In the consolation bracket finals, Summersville topped the Couch Indians 67-59 Dec. 30.