(Photos by David Jenkins, Staff)
RISCO -- The Risco Tigers squared off against the Clarkton Reindeer Tuesday night at Risco, in a rematch of the Clarkton Christmas Tournament championship game earlier this season.
In their first match-up, it was the Tigers, ranked No. 10 in Class 1, who came out on top of a barnburner 98-90. But while their second match up didn't disappoint, it was Reindeer who came out on the winning end, 95-75.
Despite the win however, it was the home team that took control early on as the Tigers jumped out to an 18-13 first quarter leading, closing out the period with a 12-2 run.
Leading the way for Risco was 6-3 junior Zack Williams who had a game high 32 points, nine of those in the first eight minutes of play.
The Tigers would go on to increase their lead in the second, gaining a 26-18 lead before the play of Clarkton's 5-10 freshman Mike Jones started to get his team back into the game.
With 5:23 left in the first half, Jones connected on an old fashion three-point play, sparking his team on a rally which brought them with in one at 28-27. He would then lead his team on a 15-6 run to take a 42-36 lead to close the half.
Jones, who finished with 19, netted eleven of those in the second quarter. But he wasn't the only player from Clarkton to get in on the action as senior leader Dustin Ferguson had nine in the second before finishing with 22 in the game.
"Mikey (Jones) has been struggling a little bit as of late but we did some things in practice to get his confidence up and he came up big for us tonight," said Blackburn. "As for Dustin, he's been consistent and our leading scorer all year long so we've come to expect those kind of things from him."
Coming out of the locker rooms at the half, it seemed as though the Tigers were determined to win the back-and-forth battle, cutting the lead to one at 56-55 on a Williams basket with two minutes left in the third. But that's when Blackburn decided to try something new, halting the Tigers in a half-court trap.
"They were really running their offense well so I was just trying to do anything to get them out of rhythm," said Blackburn. "And the half-court trap was what we needed. It really worked well."
The Reindeer's half-court trap forced the home team into several turnovers to close out the period, resulting in a 9-4 run and a 65-59 lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
"We played pretty well for about three quarters but there at the end of the third and in the fourth, I felt like Clarkton really owned the game," said Blankenship. "They were competitive and we just had some major let downs, especially at the end.
"I felt like we needed a better plan of attack but instead we tried to dribble through the pressure instead of finding the open man and that's something we've talked about lately. But hats off to Clarkton, they really played well."
The Reindeer would go on to seal the game in the fourth, working the clock and connecting on key baskets and free throws, enabling the Tigers from ever really getting back into it.
Clarkton (8-4) was lead by 6-0 senior Justin Brown who had 25 while Casey Redden got in on the action with 12. Behind Williams' 32, Risco's Brandon Bennett got in on the action with 13 while Chris Williams chipped in with 12.
Risco (8-3) will travel to Campbell Friday night to take on the Camels at 7 p.m.