For the semi-final round of the Regional Tournament, the Mansfield Tigers were slated to face the Mountainburg Dragons. Having already faced Mountainburg multiple times before in the season, the Tigers knew this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. The game had its fair share of highs and lows. From the Dragons losing a starter in the first quarter due to a dislocated finger injury to the Tigers being able to hold back Mountainburg’s top two scorers, there definitely wasn’t a lack of action. After all was said and done though, the Dragons walked away with the win, 56-46 sending the Tigers to face Acorn for a third-place bid in Regionals.
“The Mountainburg game was a tough one,” explained Coach Keith Stovall. “For the boys, when you look at the scorebook, I say we should have won by 20. We held their top two point producers to just 23 points. These two guys had been averaging around 40 + points a game combined. Then they lose a starting 5 to a dislocated finger in the 1st quarter. Everything was in our favor. All I can say is welcome to tournament play! Then their backup post came off the bench and lights us up for 23, shooting no more than 2 feet from the rim. We have certainly learned our lesson.”
“The good news is that we were still playing when everyone had us counted out weeks ago. That’s what happens when the quarantines and injuries are gone and you get to have some real practices. Also, #20 for Mountainburg was able to return after the game and will be able to play in State. He came up to all our coaches and players outside the gym after the game and shook our hands. A class act that represents his school and parents well!”
The Tigers still had one more hurdle to jump in Regional play as they came back Saturday, March 6, to attempt to overthrow the Acorn Tigers for a third-place spot. Also no stranger to conference foe Acorn, Mansfield was strapped in and ready for what was sure to be a category 6 hurricane match. As both towns packed the stands, the energy in the gym was at a high concentration. As the game tipped-off, first-time sophomore starter, Braxton Byers, launched the first two points for Mansfield. But after enduring an ankle injury, Byers was sadly out the remainder of the game.
The Tigers shifted their game plan and got back in it. The first quarter ended with a score of 8-6 Acorn and at that moment it became apparent to Acorn that although they were able to walk all over Mansfield in their previous games, this time it wasn’t going to be that easy. Both teams remained on fire going into halftime 24-17 Acorn but as the second half of the game got underway, the tides started to change for the worse for Mansfield. Acorn was able to pull away from the Tigers and end Regional play with a winning score of 46-28 and the third-place trophy. Codi Chick led Mansfield with 9 points followed by Clint Stovall with 6, JoJo Bailey with 3, and Tyler Escalante, Ethan Pettus, Bri Sanderson, Zayne Dugan, and Braxton Byers with 2 apiece.
With Regionals behind them, Mansfield is ready to play as they have never played before as they take on State. The Tigers will be battling the Caddo Hills Indians at 1 pm in Melbourne on Tuesday, March 9.
Mountainburg photos courtesy of Skylynn Harris