CABOOL — Unhappy with his team’s effort in the opening round of the Cabool Holiday Tournament, Houston coach Dustin Kirkman brought his players into the gym Tuesday for an impromptu session.
“We had a little meeting this morning for practice and a reminder of what it’s like to run hard and play hard,” Kirkman said.
The message sank in.
Senior Cory Scheets scored on a screen-and-roll from teammate Weston Walker with 52 seconds remaining and the Tigers squeaked past Couch 66-60 Tuesday morning in the consolation bracket.
The win was the second of the season for Houston, which faced Eminence at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Complete results were unavailable at press time. The Tigers trailed 45-33 at the half.
Despite blowing a 12-point second-quarter advantage and struggling at times against Couch’s fullcourt pressure, Kirkman thought his team’s showing was much better than Monday’s 65-49 opening-round loss to Thayer.
“A large part of our performance had to do with effort,” Kirkman said. “It just wasn’t there. The kids knew it. That’s why we met early (Tuesday) morning and had a little reminder.”
Freshman Devin Coulter scored 11 of his career-best 21 points in the first quarter to pace Houston. Walker had 16 points and Curry Van Horn added 15.
Derek Orchard hit five of Couch’s nine 3-pointers en route to a game-high 26 points.
The Tigers were clinging to a one-point lead with less than a minute left when Scheets set a ball screen on Walker’s defender and rolled to the basket. Walker hit him on the left block, and Scheets converted the basket to make it 63-60.
Scheets’ layin over Couch’s Jesse Janes was his lone points of the game.
“We ran our regular pick-and-roll. They tried to jump it and the roll was wide open,” Kirkman said. “I think Cory got pretty lucky. He may have taken an extra step there — maybe the NBA continuation. But it fell our way, and he stepped in there and made a big bucket.”
Kirkman said the play wasn’t a special call. He said his team runs offensive plays to take advantage of what the defense is doing. Scheets’ important score developed from the Tigers’ four-high set.
“The good thing about our offense is we usually get shots that we’ve taken many, many times before,” Kirkman said. “We got a good look out of stuff we do every day.”
Van Horn hit a pair of free throws with 14 seconds left to extend the lead. Walker hit another to end the game.
Houston took control early behind freshmen Aaron Cantrell and Coulter, who both started. The duo combined to score eight of Houston’s first 12 points, and the Tigers led 12-8 on a pair of Coulter free throws with 2:41 left in the quarter.
“I was proud of how they came out of the gate,” Kirkman said of Cantrell and Coulter. “It’s really easy as a freshman playing against juniors and seniors to be kind of timid. We’re going to put up with a mistake or two to keep them aggressive.”
Houston’s lead stretched to 12 points on Van Horn’s 3-pointer from the left wing early in the second. But the Tigers went 6 minutes, 21 seconds without a field goal as Couch scored 12 unanswered points to tie it 28-all. Houston’s next field goal — a layin by Coulter with five seconds in the half — put the Tigers up by two.
Kirkman said his team, which dressed just seven players, played at too fast of a tempo during its scoring drought.
“When you’re seven deep, it’s not a good idea to play a fast-paced game,” Kirkman said. “They pushed us, and we didn’t keep our head the entire time. We’d break the press and take an early shot. We were only getting one shot — and it was a quick one, and not a good one.”
Couch scored eight of the first 10 points of the third quarter — highlighted by consecutive triples from Derek Orchard and Josh Brame — to take its first lead. It was tied 48-all late in the quarter when Houston got four straight points from Walker and a Dalton Pokorny tip-in to go ahead by six.
The Tigers led 54-51 entering a back-and-forth final quarter that they never led by more than two points until Scheets’ timely basket.
“I was a little more pleased with our effort,” Kirkman said. “We didn’t have very good participation with some of the practices over the break. A couple kids here and a couple kids there. It really showed (Monday).”
Houston 21 9 24 12 — 66
Couch 16 12 23 9 — 60
HOUSTON (66) — Curry Van Horn 15. Aaron Cantrell 5. Devin Coulter 21. Weston Walker 16. Cory Scheets 2. Dalton Pokorny 8. FG 29. FT 23-35. F 9. (3-pointers: Van Horn, Coulter)
COUCH (60) — Josh Brame 13. Jesse Janes 4. Derek Orchard 26. Dusty Chester 7. Quaid Turner 8. Zeb Hopper 2. FG 24. FT 4-8. F 25. (3-pointers: Orchard 5, Brame 3, Turner)