Houston High School cheerleaders Emily Harrison, right, and Kelli Albrecht perform during halftime Friday night inside Hiett Gymnasium.

Each moment in every game is a learning experience for the Houston Tigers.

A critical one came Friday night when confusion with defensive assignments on the Tigers’ fullcourt pressure led to an uncontested layup. The mistake – with 31 seconds left in a one-point game against Willow Springs – was magnified by the situation. The play helped the Bears escape Hiett Gymnasuim with a 68-63 victory.

“When these things happen, they are learning experiences,” first-year Tigers coach Tom Brown said. “It’s bad to lose. We don’t want to lose. But it’s a learning experience.”

Houston (2-8) trailed 62-61 after Devin Coulter stole the ball and fed it to teammate Aaron Cantrell for an easy layin with 32 seconds left. The Tigers called timeout to set up their fullcourt pressure.

But with no safety deep, Willow Springs threw a long pass over the top of Houston’s press to Chris Miller, who scored an uncontested layup to make it a three-point deficit.

After Curry Van Horn missed a pair of contested 3-pointers, Miller sank a pair of free throws with 9.8 seconds left to make it 66-63. Van Horn converted a layup to cut the deficit to three, but Miller again went deep against Houston’s fullcourt pressure and scored another uncontested layup to put the finishing touches on the victory.

“We had a miscommunication,” Brown said of the press. “It was just a breakdown, and that happens sometimes. The bad thing was that it happened at a bad time. You can’t blame anyone. That’s part of life.”

He expects his team to learn from the mistake.

“I can tell you this, the next time we have that press, we will not forget who is the safety,” Brown said.

Van Horn hit three 3-pointers en route to a game-high 19 points.  Coulter added 10 points as the only other HHS player in double figures.

Miller scored 16 points for Willow Springs (3-11).

Brown gave his team a “seven on scale of 10.” The key, he said, is making more shots. The Tigers were 7-for-20 shooting in decisive fourth quarter.

“You’ve got to put it in the hole,” Brown said. “We missed at least five easy shots. We’ve got to hit shots.”

Supported by a big crowed for Hoop Queen, the Tigers scored nine of the game’s first 11 points and led 9-2 on Coulter’s steal and basket just over three minutes into the first quarter.

Houston led 16-14 after the opening quarter and 31-30 at the half.

The Tigers’ last advantage was a 56-53 lead on Coulter’s layin midway through the fourth quarter. Willow Springs got consecutive baskets from Miller and Joe Chilton to take a one-point lead and never trailed again.

“We had a great effort. We played extremely well defensively,” Brown said. “We don’t have any consistency shooting the ball right now.”

On Thursday, Van Horn led four players in double figures with 28 points as HHS scored a season-best point total in a 95-72 home victory against Summersville.

Rodney Preheim had 13 points for the Tigers, who scored 57 second-half points. Aaron Cantrell and Coulter had 12 points apiece.

Houston forced 28 turnovers and shot 47 percent to snap a five-game losing skid. The Tigers’ last victory was Dec. 9 against Fordland.

“I was happy to get in the win column,” Brown said.

Hunter Duncan led Summersville with a game-high 28 points. Chris Robertson scored 26.

JUNIOR VARSITY: Jason Wink and Kolby Walker scored 13 points apiece in the JV Tigers’ 65-41 loss Friday to Willow Springs.

On Thursday, Wink had a team-best five points in a 21-15 loss to Summersville. The game was two quarters.

Box scores

VARSITY

Friday’s game

Willow Springs       14   16   20   18   –   68
Houston   16   15   18   14   –    63

WILLOW SPRINGS -Logan Welch 12. Dylan Gale 9. Phil Collins 4. Jacob Capeder 3. haden Smith 3. Travis Wake 11. Chris Miller 16. Joe Chilton 10. FG 23. FT 16-26. F 11. (3-pointers: Gale 3, Welch, Smith, Wake. Fouled out: none).

HOUSTON – Curry Van Horn 19. Aaron Cantrell 4. Jacob Hall 6. Devin Coulter 10. Colten Huff 1. Weston Walker 9. Rodney Preheim 9. Jacob Kelley 5. FG 26. FT 4-8. F 19.(3-pointers: Van Horn 3, Coulter 2, Walker. Fouled out: none).

Thursday’s game

Summersville      13   15   22   22   –    72
Houston   17   21   29   28   –   95

SUMMERSVILLE – Levi Mahan 7. Chris Robertson 26. Hunter Duncan 28. Josh Wells 8. Quinton Shockley 3. FG 23. FT 21-41. F 18. (3-pointers: Duncan 3, Mahan 2. Fouled out: Robertson).

HOUSTON – Curry Van Horn 28. Aaron Cantrell 12. Jacob Hall 3. Devin Coulter 12. Colten Huff 4. Weston Walker 6. Rodney Preheim 13. Jacob Kelley 8. Kolby Walker 2. Marcus Beezley 7. FG 27. FT 19-32. F 29. (3-pointers: Van Horn 3, Coulter, Kelley. Fouled out: none).

JUNIOR VARSITY

Friday’s game

Willow Springs       10   15   21   19   –   65
Houston   12   11   11   7   –    41

HOUSTON – Ryan Bowlin 2. Gabe Pruett 5. Tanner Smith 4. Jason Wink 13. Tanner Cantrell 4. Kolby Walker 13. (3-pointers: Wink 3, Walker 2, Pruett. Fouled out: none).

Thursday’s game

Summersville       11   10   –   21
Houston   12   3   –    15 

HOUSTON – Gabe Pruett 2. Devin Garret 2. Jason Wink 5. Tanner Cantrell 4. Kolby Walker 2. (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: none).

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