Powered by major contributions from both starters and reserve players, the Houston High School boys basketball team beat county rival Plato 73-43 Friday night in Hiett Gymnasium.

Trailing 18-15 at the end of the first quarter, the Tigers found another gear and outscored the visiting Eagles 19-7 in the second period and 39-18 in the second half.

Houston got rolling early in the second quarter, tying the game at 21-all when senior guard Clayton Moore stole the ball and drove for a layup with 4:25 to go before the break. The Tigers went into halftime with a 34-25 advantage after senior forward Jaekan Moss came off the bench and buried a pair of 3-point shots with under a minute left, one at the 55-second mark and another with 5 seconds remaining.

Houston kept the pressure on at the outset of the second half, as sophomore forward Korbyn Tune grabbed an offensive rebound and converted a put-back shot to establish a 10-point lead at 36-26. The rout was on moments later as senior guard Dalton Dzurick hit back-to-back treys to put the Tigers up 42-28.

After Moss stole the ball on Plato’s end and drove the length of the floor for a one-handed layup with 25 seconds left in the third period, Houston went into the final 8 minutes with an commanding 54-31 advantage.

After Moore drilled a trey to begin the final period, Plato cut into the lead for the next few minutes. But the Tigers responded and led 68-40 after a medium range jumper by senior forward Sterling Jackson with 1:10 to go. 

When Moss drove the lane and fed Jackson for a bucket down low with 37 seconds left, Houston was up by 30 at 70-40. Sophomore guard Garyn Hall put the icing on the cake by drilling a 3-point shot with 10 seconds remaining in the contest.

Junior forward Ty Franklin led Houston in scoring with 16 points, while Moore and Moss each had 11. Dzurick finished with a season-high 8 points (all in the third quarter) and Jackson added 7 (all in the fourth quarter).

Plato senior forward Grady Todd led all scorers in the game with 20 points.

The Tigers (5-4) have had good results this season when they’ve shared the scoring load. HHS head coach Rod Gorman said other teams tend to key on Moore – Houston’s leading scorer last season – and that leads to other opportunities for a team stacked with talent.

“We had a very balanced offense attack tonight with a lot of guys contributing,” Gorman said. “They put a lot of focus on Clayton out there and that opens up other guys and it’s up to them to step it up, and they’re doing that.”

After the early deficit, Gorman sought to reel in the fast pace and establish a “possession game.” 

“We got the game slowed down a bit,” he said. “We didn’t really know if we wanted to play fast or slow; we didn’t think they had much depth and we could wear them out, but at the same time, they play better fast. So when we got it slowed down, we were able to control things better.”

Moss said he and his teammates enjoy games when everyone’s involved.

“We really like it when everyone succeeds,” he said. “We’re a very unselfish team.”

The Tigers will be in the field next week at the annual Blue and Gold Tournament in Springfield. They’ll take on Crane at 5 p.m. Thursday at JQH Arena at Missouri State University. 

The Crane Pirates (of Stone County, southwest of Springfield) are 7-0 and are the fifth-ranked Class 2 squad in Missouri.

Gorman (in his fourth season with Houston) has coached in the event numerous times, and has the fifth most wins in the tournament’s history.

“We just have to take care of the ball,” he said. “People are going to try to speed us up, but we’re working hard on keeping it tight and ball faking and not allowing people to run out on us. But if we can get teams into ball possession basketball games, we’ll have our chances every night.” 

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