By Mike Phillips
Corsicana Daily Sun
The boys teams from Rice and Blooming Grove probably didn’t need to face each other in the Frost Invitational Tournament, but there was almost no way to avoid it as both the Bulldogs and Lions won their openers Thursday in the Frost gym to force a showdown at 4:40 Friday in the semifinals.
“We’re in the same district and we really don’t want to play a district team (in a tournament),’’ Blooming Grove Coach Ben Kinnison said after his Lions beat Wortham 70-59 to set up the showdown with Rice, which had won earlier, beating Valley Mills 55-52. “We know each other well. These kids know each other. They know what kind of underwear they each other wear.’’
Both teams are off to torrid starts and are unbeaten entering Friday’s game.
On the other side of the bracket, Frost’s boys and Dawson’s boys both won and will square off in the other semifinal game at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Frost’s girls stayed unbeaten with a lopsided win over Trinidad to advance to the semifinals and Wortham’s girls and Dawson’s Lady Bulldogs won and will meet in the semifinals at 3:15 p.m. Friday.
Both Frost teams took over their games early as the Lady Bears coasted to 73-14 win over Trinidad and the Polar Bears ripped Trinidad 45-23.
The Lady Bears jumped out to a 24-4 first-quarter lead and were up 46-9 at halftime. They were led by Diana Rios and Jae Moore, who each scored 16 points. Heather Montgomery followed with 15 and Madison Revill dropped in 10. Karlie Scott (8), Cheyenne Pack (3), Kaycee Bowling (2), Kennah Kennedy (2) and Jennifer Andrews (1) all scored for Frost, which is 8-o and ranked No. 8 in the TABC sate poll.
Frost’s boys got a big game from Kobe Hailey, who missed most of the football season with a knee injury. Hailey led the way with 18 points. Robert Worley (9), Isiah Belcher (8), Zach Terry (8) and Tyler Stevenson (2) also scored for Frost.
Rice 55, Valley Mills 52
They did it again, those scrappy, tough, no-quit Bulldogs from Rice pulled off another win Thursday and they did it the only way they know how — diving head first with enough grit and desire to out-run and out-hustle a much bigger and more physical team from Valley Mills.
Rice, which doesn’t have a starter over 6-feet tall, somehow knocked off the Eagles and 6-8 Garrett Vannetta, who scored 34 points and seemed unstoppable at times.
But the Rice kids made stops when they had to, and stole this one right from under the taller Eagles — literally.
Trailing 50-46 with about five minutes left in the game, Daniel Arteaga busted a 3-pointer to close to 50-49 and then Rice came up with three steals in a span of less than two minutes and Sim Nezar cashed in on all three steals for three fastbreak drives to lift Rice to a 55-50 lead with 3:30 left.
“We had to be quick. We and to make steals,’’ said Nezar, who led Rice with 25 points.
That’s the way everyone at Rice feels these days.
It’s that quickness that has produced a 7-0 start — quickness and another big ingredient.
“Heart, this team has heart,’’ Rice Coach Phillip Eddins said after the win. “We preach to our kids about having a lot of heart, and we believe we have a lot of heart. We don’t have a starter over 6-feet tall. If we don’t go out there and play with heart we will get a tail-kicking every night. They know that.’’
The Rice kids play like there’s no time on the clock from the opening tip, running and scrambling and making things happen on both ends of the court with an unrelenting defense and an in-your-face offense that challenges bigger opponents. They bring a lot of energy and then feed off each other.
“We have to play quick and aggressive defense,’’ said Arteaga, the team’s point guard who runs the offense and finished with 14 points. “We have to be quick and we have to work and give it our best and just get after them. Our defense has to make up for our lack of height. We hustle more than any team. We’re little little gnats.’’
They do swarm and they keep coming.
There were moments Tuesday when Valley Mill’s larger front look too intimidating, but evidently, nothing intimidates’ Eddins’ kid.
“I can’t say enough abut these kids,’’ said Eddins , whose team won 11 games last year. “We’re 7-0 and six of those games have been within 10 points. These kids have just sold out to play defense and hustle.
Arteaga is the only senior on a this young gnat-like team, but Eddins says he brings great senior leadership every time he brings the ball up the court. Nezar is just a freshman, but has led Rice in scoring all season. But it’s an all-for-one - type team
Raven Huffman scored five points and Austin Peppers added four for the Bulldogs while Colin Haston (3) and Jamie Metcalf (2) also scored.
Blooming Grove 70, Wortham 59
The Lions stayed unbeaten with a quick start that held up against a gritty Wortham team that cut into the lead but fell short.
Tyler Lewis hit the first shot of the game — a 3 with some sting to it — and Juanya Pyburn was hot early, torching the net for 12 first-quarter points as the Lions built a 22-13 lead. They built the lead to 52-36 in the fourth, but Wortham just kept coming.
The Bulldogs were led by Ladarious Freeman, who dropped in 19 points, and Kenneth Freeman, who added 14. Carlos Ruiz hit a pair of 3s and finished with eight points and Daniel Trantham added six while Witty Busby scored five and Rudy Miller scored four.
“We’re learning as we go,’’ said Wortham’s first-year coach Brian Coffman, whose team is 4-4. “Everything is new to them, but they are buying into it and once we start shooting and getting that confidence and once they get it, we’ll be fine. I believe we’ll be all right when January gets here.’’
Blooming Grove is off to an 8-0 start and Pyburn, a sophomore is leading the way, averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds a night, and Daniel Pelzel has been running the floor and the team like he was born to play point guard.
He’s been my starter for four years,’’ Kinnison said. “It’s like having an assistant coach out there.’’
Pelzel ran the floor, directed traffic, passed out a half dozen assists and hit three 3’s to finish with nine points. Pyburn finished with 21 and Lewis and Rowdy Barlow, who had some big moments inside, both dropped in 11. Tyler Ellis hit two 3s and finished with six points and Dalton Blake (4) and Keller Southard (2) and Dylan Blackmon (2) scored for the Lions.
“I thought we looked good in the first half,’’ Kinnison said, and not so good in the second half. We haven’t put together four quarters yet.’’
But they have put together a perfect 8-0 record.
Dawson 37, Valley Mills 35
Dawson Coach Kelley Tucker loved the way her kids finished Tuesday opening round game at the Frost Tournament against a bigger team from Valley Mills — the Lady Bulldogs took over late and wouldn’t give in down the stretch.
‘It felt good,’’ said Tucker, who coaches with a lot of passion and energy — just like her team plays. “It was a good win. They beat us at our place so it was a good recovery win. The girls are working hard and we’re getting better.’’
Dawson (35) was trailing 31-26 when the Lady Bulldogs ripped off a 10-point run to take over the game. Jayln Miller, who finished with eight points, started the run with a put-back and then Katie Yates, who also had eight points, hit an outside shot to left Dawson to a 31-30 lead. Then came the backbreakers: Bam-Bam, and just like that it was Dawson’s game as Kaylee Martinez and Yates busted back-to-back 3s to lift Dawson to a 36-31 lead with two minutes left in the game.
Martinez, a savvy point guard who ran the floor, finished with 16 points and four assists, and Stephanie Lindsey had a big game, dropping in five points and grabbing 15 rebounds. She also blocked three shots and made a big defensive rebound and a steal in the final minute of the game to help seal the win.
Hubbard 63, Reicher 28
Hubbard jumped out to a 17-5 lead and was up 38-10 at halftime to open its own tournament on Thursday.
Tysheunna Hawthorne (18) and Kate Saucke (14) led the way and Jasmine Parks (6), NaKaila Banks (10), Baylour Lewis (5), Shayla Parks (2) and Tia Parks (6) all scored for the Lady Jags.