(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
RISCO -- Knowing that North Pemiscot was not at full-strength had somewhat of a positive and negative effect on the Risco Tigers.
Without arguably their best player, James Macklin, who's out due to a broken finger as well as Lajuan Johnson, the Tigers had mixed emotions about their 72-48 rout of the state-ranked Mustangs on Tuesday night.
"It's still a big win," Risco junior Luke Bixler said. "But, it would have been better to have one of their star players in because he's a key factor on their team. It was a good win for us in the conference but, it would have been better if he was there so we could see how we matched up with them."
"I think it takes a lot away," Sophomore Chris Pavy said. "I wanted to beat them with their full squad. But, it was a real good win."
Although it was a depleted Mustangs team, both Bixler and Pavy, who led the Tigers with 15 and 16 points apiece, were key in Risco's 11th win of the season as they spearheaded the Tigers' aggressive defensive attack on the top of their full-court press.
Franticly jumping and waving their arms as defenders, Bixler, Pavy and others put North Pemiscot into a daze which led to 23 turnovers. Bixler added to the turnover margin with six of Risco's 12 steals on the night.
"We used our 'run and jump' defense that we use in practice and we just forced them into turnovers," Bixler said. "We ran the floor like we normally do."
"Our guards work really hard on the press," Risco head coach Brandon Blankenship said. "Of course, you have to look at them not having their primary ball handler as well, which could have made a difference. But, we just have to keep playing our game and keep working."
The Tigers (11-6) had a tough time getting that press started, however, as North Pemiscot crept back from an early 6-2 deficit to eventually take an 11-8 lead after the first quarter. Not only were the Mustangs stung by turnovers, but Risco also had their share in the first eight minutes.
"The first quarter, we were fumbling the ball, not making very good passes and they were getting their hands on the ball," Blankenship said. "Once we started putting a little more defensive pressure we got a few turnovers and got in a rhythm."
Risco's rhythm began in the second quarter, behind nine points from Bixler and seven from Pavy.
Pavy opened the quarter with a 3-pointer to tie the game at 11. During Risco's next possession, Bixler gave his Tigers a lead they would never relinquish with a layup.
The Tigers closed out the first half with a 14-0 run and held North Pemiscot, who is ranked seventh in the latest Class 1 boys poll, to just six points in the second frame while scoring 25 themselves.
"We needed to step up on defense," Pavy said. "That first quarter, we weren't playing very good defense. We stepped it up in the second."
Risco led 33-17 at the break.
"They've held every other team in the conference almost under 50," Pavy said. "They have pretty good defense but I think we outdid them on defense tonight."
The Tigers continued to pour it on in the second half, discouraging the Mustangs by using their trap defense.
"Everybody gets frustrated when you're in a trap," Pavy said. "We've gotten a few five second calls and we've got several 10 second calls. That definitely frustrates teams."
Risco pulled away in the final frame which included a 10-2 run and 27 fourth quarter points.
The win seals at least a share of the Tri-County Conference regular season title, if Holcomb wins out, and the top-seed in the conference tournament for the Tigers.
Risco, who completed their conference schedule with a 7-1 record, are sure to meet the Mustangs again during the conference tournament and/or districts.
Next time possibly at full strength.
"You really want to beat them at full strength," Blankenship admitted. "They've had one guy out for the entire season and then Macklin gets hurt. It could take away from it a little bit because you know you're going to see them again probably in the conference tournament and districts.
"It's hard to tell exactly where you're at."
NORTH PEMISCOT -- Brandon Holloman 12, Lendale Grays 3, Jay Butler 10, David Foster 2, Dominic Bryant 15, Jake Watkins 6. FG 19, FT 6-11, F 15. (3-pointers: Holloman 1, Grays 1, Watkins 2. Fouled out: none.)
RISCO (72) -- Luke Bixler 15, Chris Pavy 16, Austin White 12, Jordan Pavy 11, Jeremey Fowler 9, Hunter Knight 7, Kris Walker 2. FG 29, FT 10-18, F 14. (3-pointers: Bixler 1, C. Pavy 1, J. Pavy 1, Fowler 1. Fouled out: none.)