NEWVILLE - A very sluggish start put James Buchanan's boys basketball team in a hole early Wednesday night.
The Rockets couldn't buy a bucket in the first half of the Big Spring Holiday Tournament championship against the host Bulldogs. They shook off the rough start and came out in the third quarter with a vengeance.
But Big Spring wasn't thwarted. The Bulldogs did a nice job of drawing fouls down the stretch and held off JB for a 56-43 victory and their own tournament's crown.
"I'm disappointed to lose, but I'm certainly happy that we came out in the second half and showed how we can play basketball," Rockets coach Larry Strawoet said. "When you get down that much (JB trailed by 11 at halftime) and you spend that much energy trying to get back in a game, that's a lot. That's what happened to us tonight."
A dismal shooting percentage very well might have cost JB (6-4) the victory. Although the Rockets took nearly double the shots as Big Spring (4-6), JB connected on a mere 19.4 percent from the field (13-for-67).
"I think sometimes we forced our shots," JB's Toby Sowers said. "In some situations, we weren't really set and ready to shoot. We wouldn't necessarily put ourselves in bad situations, but we weren't taking the right shots when we needed to."
The Rockets out-rebounded Big Spring, 41-35, but they managed only four field goals in the first half and were 4-for-31 (12.9%) from the floor in the opening 16 minutes.
"They did a great job rebounding, especially on the backside," Bulldogs coach Jason Creek said, "but we feel really good about our defense, other than our rebounding aspect of it. We let a team shoot the ball 60-plus times and they don't beat us - we're pretty happy with that."
Big Spring used that poor shooting to its advantage early, building up a double-digit lead by halftime. JB's Gage Piper wasn't going down that easily, though. He nailed a pair of 3-pointers in the opening minute of the second half. Hunter Sowers knocked down a free throw, and Toby Sowers hit a longball of his own. In the blink of an eye, the Rockets trailed by just one.
But then Creek called a timeout, and the Bulldogs answered with a six-point run of their own.
"I was stalling as long as I could to call a timeout because I wanted us to break out of it on our own," Creek said. "When I called that timeout, I just settled them down and made sure we were getting back in our zone defense. We wanted to keep forcing the deep shots and taking away any penetration."
The Rockets, who were hindered by the absence of leading scorer Ryan Hege, never got it closer than seven after that.
"This showed us that we stand around a lot," Toby Sowers said. "We rely on Ryan a lot, and I think this is an eye opener. It shows us that we all need to get on the boards and be more aggressive."
Although the Rockets clearly missed Hege, who was out with an illness, Hunter Sowers did a fine job in his place. He finished with the game's only double-double. He had 11 points and 15 rebounds to go along with five steals.
"He's certainly the heir apparent to Ryan," Strawoet said. "Hunter still shows his youthfulness sometimes, but he's learning. He played all 32 minutes, and he gave us everything he had tonight."
NOTES >> Piper led the Rockets with 14 points, including four 3-pointers, and was named to the All-Tournament Team ... Big Spring's Ryker Armond was named the tournament MVP after a 21-point performance.
Big Spring 56, James Buchanan 43
James Buchanan (43)
Gage Piper 5 0-0 14, Zach Vosburg 2 0-0 4, Toby Sowers 1 3-4 6, Hunter Sowers 2 7-9 11, Cody Tacker 1 0-0 2, Jared Pine 2 0-0 6, Kyle Buchanan 0 0-0 0, Hunter Reath 0 0-0 0, Justin Helman 0 0-0 0. Totals — 13 10-13 43.
Big Spring (56)
Ryker Armond 4 11-16 21, Jaret Petty 3 3-4 9, Nick Black 2 3-7 8, Bryce Ruth 2 2-4 6, Peyton Bechtold 4 1-2 11, Josh Header 0 1-2 1, Derek Sweger 0 0-0 0. Totals — 15 21-35 56.
James Buchanan _ 5 _ 9 _ 16 _ 13 _ — _ 43
Big Spring _ 12 _ 13 _ 14 _ 17 _ — _ 56
3-point goals — JB 7 (Piper 4, Pine 2, T.Sowers), BS 5 (Armond 2, Bechtold 2, Black).