Basketball fans not in attendance at the Henry Rath Activity Center this past weekend missed the best entertainment in town.
The Stone High boys’ and girls’ teams both went to the wire in pursuit of championships in the Stone High Holiday Classic tournament.
Boys’ Coach Todd Miller and girls’ Coach Sam Smith each called the tournament, recently resurrected after several years, a success despite the fact neither team managed to secure a first-place trophy.
The Tomcats overcame a lackluster first quarter in Saturday’s title game against D’Iberville and ultimately took a four-point lead with a minute to go.
An inability to convert free throws and several quick turnovers trying to break the Warriors’ press, however, allowed their opponents to tie the game and force overtime.
Nearly the exact same scenario in the extra period allowed the Warriors to take a 67-64 victory.
“Turnovers and missed free throws hurt us badly,” Miller said. “We missed 11 free throws and made more than 20 turnovers and we should’ve won, but we gave it away.”
The coach emphasized that, outside of the loss, he was not displeased with his team’s performance.
“Effort-wise, we were excellent,” he said. “Execution-wise, we’ve still got some work to do.
“The guys could’ve just folded up after that first quarter but there was no quit in them.”
The Tomcats were down by 11 points after the first quarter and trailed by seven after 16 minutes.
Switching out of a zone and going man-to-man on defense, combined with center Peyton Owen emerging from a first-half funk allowed Stone eat away at the difference and take a two-point lead into the fourth quarter.
“They got a little physical with (Owen) early and he may have been trying to finesse it too much,” Miller said. “He started playing like he’s capable of in the second half and he was just a force in the lane.”
Owen finished with 29 points.
Add those to the 33 he scored Friday against Purvis and the senior post player averaged 31 a game for the weekend.
Contributing to the early deficit was an inability to play an up-tempo, fast-break style which D’Iberville employed.
“We got going too fast and that’s not who we are,” Miller said. “We were trying to make passes we can’t make and with Xaviour out, we were a little out of flux.
“Once we settled into what we know we can do, things went more our way.”
An ankle injury to point guard Xaviour Keys early in the first forced the Tomcats to rearrange their offensive weapons and take another approach to bringing the ball up the floor.
Fans may see more of Tavarus Fairley at the point in the future.
“We’ve still got a couple of tricks up our sleeve,” Miller said.
Amari Lewis added 12 points for Stone.
The Tomcats and Purvis played fairly close for three quarters Friday, with Stone holding a 42-37 lead after 24 minutes.
Like Saturday, switching from a zone to a man defense provided a spark and Stone began the final period of play with a 17-3 run en route to a 67-44 victory.
“At the end of the third, we quit outsmarting ourselves and went man-to-man and got some steals,” Miller said.
Owen had the aforementioned 33 points on 13 field goals and 7-for-7 free-throw shooting.
He also pulled down 20 rebounds.
Lewis added 10 points and contributed 14 rebounds.
The Tomcats are now off until next Tuesday when they host Picayune in the opening game of the district schedule.