In a game of high hopes, the Hillcrest Screamin' Eagles sought payback for the pair of close losses they suffered to the Mammoth Spring Bears in regular season play.
However, the championship game of the 1A-2 North District Tournament ended much the same way, with the top-seeded Bears knocking off the Screamin' Eagles 72-62 at the Longhorn Corral in Viola Feb. 20.
With the intensity of a district championship on the line, both the Screamin' Eagles and Bears were wound tighter than a drum on parade day.
Mammoth Spring Head Coach Jeremy Cude slowed the pace down some, helping to shake off the early game jitters by asking his team to pull in the reins a bit and look for high-percentage shots.
Hillcrest point guard Dylan Wooten found a crease in the Bears' defense and was able to fire laser strikes to Derek Wooten slicing down the lane from the high post for points.
Bears' point guard Houston Cooper (11 points) was able to dribble around the Screamin' Eagles' defense and dish off to Wes Coffey in the corner for a dagger from 3-point land.
Action in the second frame heated up with the Bears netting 20 and the Eagles 11, giving Mammoth Spring a 31-20 advantage at the half.
Playing at or above the rim early in the half, Hillcrest's hoppers swatted away a couple of Bear shots with Coffey, Garrett Wooldridge (23 points, 16 rebounds) and Caleb Brown (14 points) getting some air time of their own to block and swat attempts at the goal on the other end.
Hillcrest's Logan Spray boxed out for some putbacks while Mammoth Spring's Austin Hite (13 points) played big on the defensive end and was a monster under the bucket to make for a 50-38 Bear advantage after three.
The Screamin' Eagles turned up the heat to max with a full-court press and double teams in the backcourt in the fourth.
Mammoth Spring, holding the edge in points ran some clock and took advantage of open shots.
With a championship on the line, the Screamin' Eagles mounted a comeback drive late in the final frame.
With the clock showing 1:27 left and with the Bears up 61-48, Hillcrest fired away for 14 quick points, but had to send Mammoth Spring to the charity stripe on every possession in an attempt to preserve clock.
Although the Bears were not solid from the stripe, they were able to maintain their lead and post a 10-point victory, becoming district tourney champs.
The Bears were slated opposite Amorel in the first round of the regional tournament Feb. 24 in Calico Rock.