ORAN -- The Twin Rivers Royals claimed their third straight Oran Tournament title Friday night, beating second-seeded Richland in the championship game, 70-61.
"This gym is built exactly like ours, the lighting is the same" said Twin Rivers coach Scott Kruse. "I don't think that has anything to do with it, but we seem to play real well over here."
The Royals overcame several Richland surges then took control in the fourth quarter, hitting 13-of-19 free throws down the stretch to preserve the victory. But even with a comfortable lead in the final period, Kruse was on the edge of his seat until the final buzzer sounded.
"I was concerned with a minute left being 10 up, because they've got a Cole on their team," he explained. Rebel standout Sherome Cole did put on a show for the overflowing crowd, scoring a game high 30 points. He knocked down four 3-pointers, was 6-of-6 from the charity stripe, and had several impressive passes to teammates for layups.
Still, Richland coach Jimmy Lincoln was left with a bitter taste in his mouth.
"We hate losing," said Lincoln. "We expected to win this game. I'm not going to sit here and lie and say I'm happy with a nine-point loss to Twin Rivers. We've got some work to do."
Robbie Moore led the scoring attack for Twin Rivers, finishing with 18 points. Center Scott Forest (6-4) had 16, and Seth McBroom provided 14.
"We don't have anybody over 5-11 that plays for us," noted Lincoln. "We're a perimeter-oriented team, and unfortunately, tonight we weren't hitting some of our shots. Their size hurt us."
Steve Deken (6-7) finished with just four points, but totally shut down the paint, blocking eight Richland shots.
"He had zero points at the half and he was very frustrated," said Kruse. "The great thing was he took care of it by coming back and playing great ball instead of getting mad and getting too physical. He kept his head and played smart ball. He's a great defensive presence."
Twin Rivers opened the game with an 8-0 lead, only to see Richland come storming back. Cole and Robert Sanders caught fire in the second quarter, giving the Rebels to a 32-28 lead at the break.
But Richland seemed to leave the offense in the dressing room at the start of the second half. The Rebels were held scoreless in the first four minutes of the third quarter and Twin Rivers took advantage.
"Our kids fought hard," said Lincoln. "You just can't get yourself behind that much against a good team like they are. (Twin Rivers) is a quality team. They're the third-ranked team in the area, and I thought we played with them. We're looking forward to playing them again. Hopefully next time we will catch them on fresh legs so we can take advantage of our quickness."
Travis Nelson scored 13 points for Richland, and Sanders finished with 10.
In the most exciting matchup of the night, Oran squeaked past highly-touted Bell City in the third place game, 45-43. Bell City's C.J. Hadley put up the potential game-winner from half court at the buzzer, but the shot rimmed out, giving the Eagles the victory.
"From where I was at, it looked like it was going in," said Oran coach Mitch Wood. "If it was one of those pop-a-shot machines with the little timer on the bottom that counts points, it would've counted. It went down far enough, then it came back out."
Oran's Ryne Wood ended the first half with a similar shot that also rimmed out.
Wood was held to just four points in the first half, but was solid for the Eagles in the fourth quarter, hitting four crucial free throws and a 3-pointer.
Nathan Seyer was Oran's leading scorer with 16 points, but was knocked out of the game with 2:31 left in regulation diving for a loose ball. Things looked bleak for the Eagles, considering the game was tied.
"What we had to do at that point was get the lead, then handle the basketball," said Wood. "The kids that came in did a real good job of that, making sure we got the right shots."
Jason Rampley led Bell City with 10 points. Standout Eric Henry was held to eight.
Oran was the No. 5 seed of the tournament while the Cubs were No. 3.
"We feel like we've got a good ballclub here at Oran," said Wood. "A lot of times people count us out because we keep the same kids and everybody knows what we've got. Other teams get a few new players and they get all excited. I've got a bunch here that has played together for a long time, and I think we'll be in most ballgames. When it comes district time, I think this team will be ready to do something."
Terrance Williams scored 25 points and Chris Johnson contributed 12 as Scott Central beat Kelly 73-70 for the consolation championship.
The Braves took a 62-50 lead into the fourth quarter and were able to hold off a Kelly rally headed by Michael Romas, who finished with 27 points.
Barry Ziegler scored 15 for Kelly, followed by Major Burger with 12.
First team: Twin Rivers' Scott Forest and Steve Deken, Bell City's Eric Henry, Richland's Sherome Cole and Oran's Nathan Seyer. Second team: Scott Central's Chris Johnson and Terrance Williams, Richland's Travis Nelson, Kelly's Tyler Schlosser and Oran's Ryne Wood. Sportsmanship award: Twin Rivers. Cheerleading award: Kelly.