Houston players Devin Coulter, left, and Kolby Walker battle for a second-half loose ball Tuesday night against Mountain Grove.

Aided by a controversial goaltending call, Mountain Grove’s fourth-quarter rally gave the team its first victory of the season.

The Panthers outscored Houston 10-2 in the final three minutes Tuesday night as they escaped Hiett Gymnasium with a 44-42 come-from-behind victory.

HHS coach Richard Rose said he was more concerned about his team’s play than the call that didn’t go the Tigers’ way.

“The game probably should not have even been in that situation,” Rose said. “Mountain Grove deserved to win more than we did. They wanted to win more than we did.”

The controversial call cemented the Panthers’ comeback.

With 17.6 seconds remaining, Mountain Grove’s Bobby Otwell drove from the left wing to the right block and put up a shot between three defenders. Aaron Cantrell swooped in from the lane and appeared to block Otwell’s shot off the backboard.

After huddling for a moment, the referee, who had already called a foul against the Tigers as Otwell put up his shot, signaled goaltending.

The call tied the game at 42-all, and Otwell made the ensuing free throw to put the Panthers (1-20) ahead for the first time since early in the third quarter.

Rose said he could not tell from his angle on the sidelines if the call was correct or not.

“I did not even think about that call one time last night,” Rose said Wednesday morning. “I probably didn’t think about it when it happened.”

Weston Walker missed a baseline jumper with 9.3 seconds left and after Otwell made one free throw, Devin Coulter misfired on a desperation 3-pointer as time expired.

Coulter led three HHS players in double figures with 17 points. Cantrell scored 12 and Weston Walker added 10.

The Tigers (6-14, 1-3 South Central Association) were 2-for-8 at the free-throw line, including two misses on the front end of 1-and-1 opportunities in the final minute.

“Our team did not play well for three-and-a-half quarters of the game,” Rose said. “The effort was not there. The focus was not there. We fell back into a lot of bad habits we had at the beginning of the season.”

Houston, which trailed 18-17 at the half, led by six with 3 minutes, 5 seconds remaining in the game when Coulter nailed a triple from the top of the key. After Mountain Grove trimmed the deficit to one, Cantrell made a short jumper to make it 42-39.

But those were the Tigers’ last points as Mountain Grove rallied for the win.

Rose said his team crumbled against the Panthers’ defensive pressure.

“I, obviously, have not done a very good job getting us ready to play this year,” Rose said. “I have to change something. The boys need to change something.”

On Friday, Coulter had five 3-pointers and scored 24 points in a 53-39 loss at Salem.

The Tigers managed just five first-quarter points and never recovered.

Box scores

Tuesday’s game

Mountain Grove     14    4    10    16    –    44 
Houston   10   7   16    9   –   42

HOUSTON (42) –– Devin Coulter 17. Aaron Cantrell 12. Tanner Smith 1. Weston Walker 10. Kolby Walker 2. FG 18. FT 2-8. (3-pointers: Coulter 3, WWalker).

Friday’s game

Houston         5    10    12    12    –    39 
Salem   15    9   13    16    –   53

HOUSTON (39) –– Devin Coulter 24. Weston Walker 4. Kolby Walker 5. Aaron Cantrell 4. Tanner Smith. 2. FG 13. FT 7-11. (3-pointers: Devin Coulter 5, WWalker).

Watch the goaltending call at the 1:16.30 mark.

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