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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Bears bound for Hot Springs!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Survive and advance.

That's a common mantra adopted by a whole host of basketball teams when the calendar turns from February to March and post-season play heats up.

Basically, it means if you win -- pretty or not -- you live to play another day. If you lose, your season is over.

And in the case of the Mammoth Spring Bears, it means a trip to Hot Springs is in store.

Behind a dominating defensive effort from its bruising front line, the Bears (35-7) advanced to the Class 1A State Tournament's championship game with a 55-39 victory over the Nevada Blue Jays March 3 at the W.T. Watson Athletic Center on the campus of Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia.

With the win, Mammoth Spring earned a trip to the state finals, opposite Scared Heart.

And even though they were basically the home team, the Blue Jays (19-17) simply had no chance in this one, as they could not match Mammoth Spring's physical play on both ends of the court.

"We knew we were bigger and stronger and more physical than they were inside," said Bears' Head Coach Jeremy Cude. "That was our advantage and we knew we had to use that as much as we could."

Mammoth Spring held Nevada to just four field goals over an 11 minute stretch in the second half, as the Bears refused to let the Blue Jays find a comfort zone on offense.

Nevada's plans to stay away from the inside of the paint didn't quite work out, and the Blue Jays made just two of the 17 3-pointers they tried in the contest.

The Blue Jays jumped in front 5-0 early, but Mammoth Spring answered with a 6-0 run, keyed by buckets from Garrett Wooldridge and Wayne Coffey.

Wooldridge led all scorers with a game-high 20, including 16 in the first half, while Coffey racked up 15 for the Bears.

Nevada eased back in front late in the first, but Mammoth Spring grabbed the lead for good on hoops from Wooldridge and Coffey that gave the Bears a 12-10 lead after one.

Mason Brown saw limited action in the game because of a flu-like bug, but the Bears got a big lift of energy in the second period from Josh Parker (eight points).

Parker hit a pair of layups in the second, while Wooldridge continued his strong play on the low blocks with eight points in the stanza, staking Mammoth Spring to a 27-15 advantage at intermission.

The Bears did hit a shaky patch early in the third as Nevada opened the frame with a jumper and Mammoth Spring committed a couple of unforced errors.

But the Bears were able to find solid ground by turning up the heat on defense.

While Nevada continued to struggle at putting the ball in the basket, Houston Cooper (13 points) got free for five points in the frame, including a 3-ball at the 3:57 mark, sending the Bears into the fourth period with a 34-20 lead.

Nevada went on a 10-4 run late in the fourth, but that was not enough to keep Mammoth Spring from securing a spot in the state finals at Summit Arena in Hot Springs.

Desmond Gulley tallied 19 points to lead Nevada.

"I can't tell you how proud I am of these young men that I coach." Cude said. "The work that they put in year-round ... you've got to feel good for them to know that all that hard work pays off and now we've got a chance to play in that big game in Hot Springs."

The Sacred Heart Rebels knocked off the defending state champion Bay Yellowjackets 57-54 in the other Class 1A boys' semifinal, setting up the March 10 Championship Game -- Mammoth Spring vs. Sacred Heart.

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