With a 49-38 first round win over host Mansfield on Tuesday of last week, the Houston High School boys basketball team advanced to the semifinals of the 83rd annual Mansfield Invitational Tournament.

But the Tigers lost their next two games in the seven-team event, falling to Willow Springs, 64-45 on Thursday and absorbing a 55-53 defeat Saturday against Conway in the tournament’s third-place contest.

In the first round matchup, Houston trailed 10-9 at the end of the first quarter but then outscored Mansfield 17-2 in the second period to take a 26-12 lead into the break.

Senior guard Clayton Moore led the Tigers in scoring with 26 points, and tossed in 11 during the decisive second quarter run. Seven other players scored for Houston, with junior forward Ty Franklin getting 6 points and seniors Dakota Burchett and Kyler Ramsey adding 4 apiece.

Against Willow Springs, the Tigers had difficulty generating offence in the first half and trailed 22-13 at the break. Houston scored the game’s first points on a short shot from the lane by senior forward Sterling Jackson, but Willow then went on a 16-2 run to take control.

The Bears then matched their first half total in the third period and led 44-24 going into the final eight minutes.

Ramsey scored 15 points for Houston in the game, while Franklin had 13 (including 9 in the fourth quarter) and Moore added 6. Willow Springs sophomore Owen Duddridge drained six 3-point shots and led the Bears in scoring with 26.

In the close call against Conway, Houston led by 7 at halftime but couldn’t close the deal. Ramsey scored 21 points for the Tigers, while Franklin and sophomore forward Korbyn Tune each had 10.

“We were a little flat in the second half, but kept playing hard,” said HHS head coach Rod Gorman.

“It came down to a few plays at the end that we didn’t execute.” 

Ava was the top team in the tournament’s pool play division and took home the event’s championship trophy by beating Willow Springs in Saturday’s final game, 57-44.

“In most tournaments, you want to get out winning a couple games,” Gorman said. “We had our chance to do that in the third-place game and just didn’t make enough plays at the end to pull out the win.”

The results of the tournament left the Tigers with a season record of 4-4.

“Being 4-4 at this point of the year is disappointing,” Gorman said, “and we will continue to work hard to improve upon that. We feel like we should have won at least couple more games at this point.”

Houston will host county rival Plato this Friday (Dec. 20). The junior varsity game is set to tip off at 6 p.m., with the varsity following.

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