As has often been said, two out of three ain’t bad – especially when it comes to winning two of three games in a basketball tournament.
The Houston High School boys did just that last week, on the way to taking third place in the annual Conway Invitational. The Tigers opened with a resounding 78-40 victory Tuesday over Aurora. Houston then fell 52-35 to Strafford on Thursday before finishing with a 70-54 win over Conway in Friday’s third-place contest.
“It was definitely a good week for us,” said HHS head coach Rod Gorman.
The Tigers jumped all over Aurora early, leading 29-5 at the end of the first quarter and 48-12 at halftime. Senior guard Clayton Moore was on fire from the opening tip, pouring in 14 points in the first period (including a pair of treys) and finishing with a game-high 25.
Junior forward Ty Franklin scored 14 points for Houston, while sophomore Korbyn Tune had 13 and senior guard Dalton Dzurick added 8.
Gorman – now in his fourth year at Houston – said the score was indicative of the way his team performed.
“We probably played as well as we have since I’ve been here,” he said. “We played great defense, rebounded well and were pretty outstanding on offense.”
The Tigers hung with Strafford most of the way, trailing by only 2 points at halftime and 5 after three quarters, but the Indians pulled away in the fourth period.
Franklin led Houston in scoring with points, while Moore had 12.
“Strafford is a good ball club,” Gorman said. “They were pretty athletic and caused us problems on offense, but we went toe-to-toe with them most of the way. They got away from us late, but it was a good showing for our guys.”
Moore knocked down eight 3-pointers and racked up a season-high 32 points in the win over Conway, as the Tigers got revenge for an early December loss at the Mansfield Invitational. Franklin chipped in 12 points and Tune added 9, as eight Houston players scored.
“We played one of our best games of the season again,” Gorman said.
After the Tigers were up by 8 at halftime, Conway erased the deficit in the third period. But Houston withstood the challenge and regained control.
“We showed a lot of toughness in that game,” Gorman said. “We made a lot of big plays when we needed them.”
Moore scored the 1,000th point of his high school career in the win over Conway.
“He’s had a great career,” Gorman said, “and he’s playing the best he’s played right now. We look forward to him finishing his career in true Tiger style.”
Strafford went on to win the tournament, topping Hollister 54-30 in last Friday’s championship game.
After beating Conway to reach the 9-win mark for the season, the Tigers have already surpassed last year’s win total and have more victories than in any season since 2010.
Houston (9-8, 0-1 SCA) has a pair of South Central Association road games scheduled this week, including a Tuesday matchup in Mountain View against Liberty and a Friday contest at county rival Cabool.
Gorman said his team is playing its best ball of the season at the right time.
“We like where we’re at right now,” he said. “We’re playing as well as we’ve played – kind of like I envisioned happening a little earlier than now, but I like our progress and hopefully we can continue to get better for the next three or four weeks.”
After spending a month playing road games, the Tigers will finally play on their home court again next week when Ava comes to town on Tuesday (Feb. 11).
Feb. 7: @ Cabool
Feb. 11 vs. Ava
Feb. 14: vs. Willow springs
Feb. 18: vs. Salem
Feb. 21: @ Mountain Grove
1. Blair Oaks
2. Father Tolton
4. Trinity Catholic
5. Cardinal Ritter
6. Monroe City
9. University Academy Charter
10. Christian (O’Fallon)
Others receiving votes: St. Michael the Archangel