However, as it turned out, there was plenty for the Cougs to perspire about at the end of the contest.
Izard County rallied back from that 22-point hole, only to see the Screamin' Eagles hang on and advance to the Class 1A State Tournament in Magnolia with a controversial 80-79 victory.
And the last two seconds of this one were wild, indeed.
With just under three ticks left in the game, Cameron Massey (six points) drilled a big-time 3-ball that pulled Izard County within one point, 80-79.
After Massey's shot fell through the net, Izard County tried to foul to stop the clock, but it appeared that time had run out on the Cougars.
And that's when confusion reigned supreme.
With the clock reading 0.00, Hillcrest's Colman Evans was awarded two free throws.
Then, after Evans' free throws, 1.5 seconds was put back on the clock, and the Cougars were whistled for an intentional foul, meaning the Screamin' Eagles would get two more free throws and possession of the basketball.
But while it was Hillcrest's Zach Doyle that should have been at the line, it was Hillcrest's Colman Evans that went to the free throw line to shoot the charity shots.
As Izard County's bench screamed to point this out to the officals, Evans missed both free throws.
Hillcrest then inbounded the ball and, as it was batted into the air by the Cougars, the horn sounded, leaving the Izard County faithful stunned and the Screamin' Eagles with the win.
As crazy as the end was, it was amazing that the game ever reached that point.
Hillcrest (20-14), which led most of the first half and built that cushion to 22 points in the second, saw Izard County (27-12) come storming back in the final frame.
Preston Harmon started the fourth with an old-fashioned 3-point play for the Cougars.
Harmon paced Izard County with 25 points, including 10 in the critical third period.
Trenton Hatman (22 points) chipped in with a pair of 3-balls in the final frame and, when Harmon drilled with 2:37 left to play, the 20-point lead was gone, with the game squared at 72-all.
Hillcrest regained the lead on the strength of back-to-back buckets with under a minute showing on the clock.
Izard County missed two long 3-point attempts with under 20 seconds left and then fouled Jeremiah Turner, sending him to the line for two free throws with six ticks left.
Turner hit one of two to ease the Screamin' Eagles in front 80-76 before Massey's big triple pulled the Cougars within one point.
Evans had a big first period and went on a personal 7-0 run to help Hillcrest to a 12-10 lead late in the frame.
The Screamin' Eagles closed the first with five unanswered points to take a 22-14 advanatge to the second period.
Hillcrest continued to keeep things rolling in the second and by the time the half came around, the Screamin' Eagles were staked to a 41-27 lead.
In the third, Hillcrest reeled off 11 straight points to extend their lead to 54-32.
But Izard County didn't wave the white flag; instead the Cougars rolled up their sleeves and got to the task at hand.
Massey hit a triple, while Harmon hit two long bombs, helping the Cougars pull within 11 points, 61-50, after three.
Jesse Ball finished with nine points for Izard County. Chris Mosley added seven, while Cody Faulkner aand Uriah Mead tallied four points apiece. Jake Dockins hit for two.
Hillcrest's Doyle led all scorers with a game-high 30.
Harmon and Hatman were both named to the All-Regional team.
In the semi-final round Feb. 24, Izard County fell behind early and never could recover, as the Bay Yellowjackets, the state's top-ranked Class 1A team, knocked off the Cougars 61-45.
Bay led 16-4 after the first period and although they did close some ground in the second, the Cougars were in a 37-26 hole at the half. The Yellowjackets led 53-36 heading into the fourth.
Hatman had 19 for izard County, while Dockins finished with nine. Massey had six. Harmon, Faulkner, Kyle King, Ball and Dillon Thronley logged two points apiece.
Tyler Brewer ended the game with one point.
The Cougars blasted the Black Rock Zebras 65-43 in opening-round play Feb. 23.
Izard County jumped in front 20-12 after one and led 36-26 at the half.
The Cougars extended that cushion to 52-35 heading into the final frame.
Dockins paced the Cougs with 14. Hatman added 12, while Chris King and Harmon scored eight apiece. Massey and Mosley finished with six points each, with Kyle King netting four and Ball three.
Mead and Faulkner hit for two points apiece.