It may not have had the same eye-pleasing visual impact as when he exploded off the floor for a one-handed jam against Calico Rock in the semi-final round, but Austin Gardner still managed to help slam the door shut on the Hillcrest junior Screamin' Eagles a couple of nights later.
Gardner drilled a big trey late in the third period, starting an 11-0 run that the Viola junior Longhorns would ride to a 51-30 victory over Hillcrest in the finals of the 1A-2 North District Junior High Tournament Feb. 13 at Norfork's Panther Pavilion.
The second-seeded junior Screamin' Eagles were within five points, 30-25, when Gardner's (seven points) 3-ball sent the junior Horns rolling.
By the time Hillcrest hit a free throw midway into the fourth period to stop Viola's surge, the junior Horns held a 41-26 advantage.
Then for good measure, Alvin Baltzell (two points) and Devon Brown (10 points) hit a charity toss apiece, Gardner hit a jumper and then Brown racked up four more points, to put the game on ice with Viola in front 49-26.
Hillcrest could manage just five points in the fourth period.
The top-seeded junior Longhorns trailed 13-6 late in the first, but Skylar Robbins (five points) hit a triple to pull Viola within 13-9 after one.
Quentin Houghtaling got on track in the second, tossing in seven of his game-high 16 points in the frame. His stickback of a missed shot with 0.5 seconds left in the first half gave Viola an 18-17 lead at intermission.
The junior Horns kept gradually building upon this lead and when the third period ended, Viola stood in front 37-25.
Keith Martin finished with nine points for Viola.
The junior Longhorns' road to the championship game started with a 31-28 victory over fourth-seeded Calico Rock Feb. 11.
Gardner and Houghtaling led Viola with nine points apiece. Brown added eight, Robbins had three and Martin two for the junior Horns.
Morgan Lamb tossed in a game-high 11 points to pace Calico Rock. Preston Sherell finished with eight, Dylan Hamby had four, Remi Lively three and Dalton Henderson two for the junior Pirates.