CABOOL — Houston senior Kyle Poynter walked off the court with his hands on his head. For all the points he poured in as the Tigers’ all-time leading scorer, he was obviously disappointed by two that got away.
Poynter couldn’t convert a baseline drive that would have tied the game with 10 seconds left and Mountain Grove, which coughed up an early 16-4 advantage, escaped with a 52-48 victory Monday in the opening round of the Class 3 District 10 tournament.
The fifth-seeded Panthers advanced to face No. 1 Ava in today’s (Thursday) semifinals. Houston’s up-and-down season ended with a sixth consecutive loss and 10-15 record.
“To the kids’ credit, they fought hard all year and made a season out of it,” second-year Tigers coach Brent Hall said. “They faltered a little late, but it wasn’t because of a lack of effort.”
With Houston trailing 50-48 with 23.5 seconds remaining, Hall called timeout and set up the Tigers’ four-high offense to isolate Poynter on the left wing. Poynter faked toward a screen, dribbled baseline and rose for a point-blank shot.
Unfortunately for Poynter, who has scored more points than anyone in the history of HHS boys’ basketball, the shot rolled out.
“I think he got too far under the basket, and it just rimmed out,” Hall said. “It wasn’t meant to be.”
Mountain Grove grabbed the rebound and made two free throws with 4.4 seconds left to secure the victory.
Poynter led all scorers with 21 points in the final game of his career. Fellow senior Jesse Setters had 12, and freshman Weston Walker scored nine of his 11 points in the second half.
The Panthers, who lost to Houston in double-overtime during the regular season, took a commanding lead early. Using its fullcourt pressure to create turnovers and easy baskets, Mountain Grove scored 16 of the game’s first 20 points.
Hall said he used all three of his team’s press breakers during the spurt. None worked.
“We came out in a different world,” Hall said. “We weren’t executing our press breaker or any of our plays right. It almost looked like we were shell-shocked.”
Houston used an 11-3 run to pull within striking distance and only trailed by three at the half. Curry Van Horn hit a 3-pointer on the opening possession of the third quarter to tie it at 28-all. Walker scored one minute later to give the Tigers their first lead of the game.
Hall credited Walker, who he inserted off the bench to combat the Panthers’ fullcourt pressure, with the Tigers’ comeback.
“He stepped up and gave us minutes that we needed,” Hall said. “He’s been big to keep the team somewhat together after we lost a couple guys. He definitely didn’t play like a freshman.”
Walker buried a triple with 3:03 left in the game to put Houston ahead 46-43. The Tigers still led by three on Poynter’s two free throws with 2:24 to go. But they didn’t score again.
“Wins and losses wise — it wasn’t the season we wanted,” Hall said. “But I enjoyed my time with the kids this season, and we worked hard and did the best we could.”
Mtn. Grove 16 12 9 15 — 52
Houston 9 16 12 11 — 48
MTN. GROVE — Williams 1 0-0 2. Hale 2 4-4 10. Dobson 3 3-4 9. Mokar 2 0-0 4. Shannon 5 3-4 13. Ary 2 1-1 6. McCay 3 3-3 10. Totals 18 14-16 52.
HOUSTON (10-15) — Van Horn 3 0-0 8. KyPoynter 6 8-11 21. Setters 3 2-2 8. Walker 5 0-1 11. Totals 17 10-14 48.
3-pointers: Mtn. Grove 4 (Hale 2, Ary, McCay); Houston 4 (Van Horn 2, KyPoynter, Walker).