(Photos by Matthew Bain, Staff)
CLARKTON -- The Risco Tigers ended a 29-year drought at the Clarkton Holiday Invitational as they captured their first title since 1979 Friday night when they defeated the host Clarkton Reindeer 98-90.
The atmosphere was electric as the teams prepared for the opening tip off. It was Clarkton who had the hot start out of the gate, as they held a 6-1 advantage over the Tigers just a minute into the game.
Risco held an 11 point lead at the end of the first quarter 32-21. The Tigers held the 11 point advantage as the teams entered the locker rooms at halftime as well.
Clarkton fell behind by as many as 25 points in the second half. However, the Reindeer, who have won four of the last six Holiday Tournaments, would not go quietly into the night.
Brown finished the game with 27 points, 18 of which came in the games final quarter.
Tigers head coach Brandon Blankenship looked on with pride as his squad celebrated after the game.
"This is a pretty good Christmas present," he said.
Blankenship said he was glad that this year's team was able to end the 29-year drought at the Clarkton Holiday Invitational.
"We haven't won this tournament since they year it began, so this is huge for our program," he said.
Blankenship felt that his team's proficiency at the free throw line played a pivotal role in Friday's contest.
"Free throws were definitely a big factor for us tonight," he said. "We have started shooting 100 free throws on game days this year and you can tell the difference."
Risco was 81 percent from the free throw line in the first three quarters, but misses in the fourth quarter, when the game was out of reach, dropped the average to 67.4 percent.
The Tigers shot very well from the floor as they scored 33 times from the field. However, Blankenship feels that unselfish play has as much to do with that as the individual skill of his shooters.
"It makes it easier when you have guys who can shoot the ball," he said. "But, our guys did a great job tonight of looking for each other and making the extra pass to find the open man."
Blankenship felt that his boys defense was "good enough" to secure victory Friday night.
"We played pretty good defensively, especially in the first half," he said.
Blankenship did note that his team could have rebounded better in Friday's game.
"We could have done a better job rebounding," he said. "I felt like we got out scrapped by Clarkton on the boards. They (Clarkton) were really going after rebounds, even when they were down."
Risco starters Zack Williams, Ross Carter, and Bennett were named to the all-tournament team.
In additon to his all-tournament team members, Blankenship pointed out senior Chris Williams as a major contributor to the championship effort.
"Our guys who made all tournament team played really well," Blankenship said. "But I was particularly proud of our senior Chris Williams, he had the game of his life tonight. He looked confident all night."
Chris Williams had a career high 28 points. He (Williams) and other Tigers had to fill the void of usual scoring leader Zack Williams. Zack Williams was whistled for three fouls early in the contest, which limited his playing time the rest of the game. Zack Williams finished the game with 11 points.
Blankenship feels the ability for any given member of his team to step up on a given night is a huge asset.
"We have had a lot of different guys step up in the scoring column for us," he said. "So you never know who will step up for us on any given night."
Clarkton coach Scottie Blackburn felt his team didn't execute Friday night.
"I thought we played hard, but we didn't always play effectively together," Blackburn said. "We didn't pass the ball enough or work together as a unit. That was a big problem."
Blackburn said it was not as much as what his Reindeer failed to do, but what Risco was able to do to them.
"A lot of it is just the way Risco played," he said. "They (Risco) played so well tonight. They (Risco) ran their offense and were able to get open looks and were able to knock them down. That was the difference."
The Tigers move to a record of 7-1 with their three wins in the Holiday Invitational.
Blankenship said that enthusiasm surrounding Risco basketball is high.
"Enthusiasm surrounding the program is at an extremely high level right now," he said. "The last couple of years have not been so good for us. We had high expectations coming into this season but everybody else was unsure. But we have proven to ourselves and to our own community that we are going to be right there come district time."
Blankenship and his Tigers will return to action after the new year, when they will travel to Marquand on Jan. 2.
The Gosnell, Ark., Pirates easily claimed the third place game of the Clarkton Invitational Tournament Friday night, defeating the Richland Rebels 76-54.
The Pirates jumped out to a 17-8 lead after one quarter and extended their advantage to 43-23 at halftime.
Gosnell put four players in double figures, led by Deantre Scott with 21. Ethan Bryant finished with 15 while Tyler Sergent and Josh Johnson added 14 and 10 respectively.
Drew Thornton led Richland (1-5) with 22 points while Jon McGarity scored 13 and Ryan Kleffner added 10.
The Cooter Wildcats won the consolation title of the Clarkton Invitational Tournament Friday by defeating Gideon 85-71.
Cooter used a 25-14 second quarter to take a 45-30 lead into halftime and never looked back.
Cooter was led in scoring by Collin Givins who scored 22 points. Aaron McCaig added 21.
Jake Deprow and Curt Miller led Gideon with 17 and 16 points respectively.