HHS senior Tanner Lee makes a move with the ball during the second quarter of the Tigers' game against Willow Springs last week at the 85th annual Lions Invitational Tournament at Mansfield. Credit: DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

At last week’s 85th annual Lions Invitational Tournament at Mansfield, the Houston High School boys basketball team won its first game before dropping the next two.

Seeded third in the six-team event, Houston beat Dora 61-51 in a first round contest on Tuesday, but then fell 56-37 to second-seeded Willow Springs on Thursday and 57-35 to Mansfield in Friday’s third-place contest.

In the win over Dora, Houston led 16-12 at the end of the first quarter, but scored only 2 points in the second period and trailed 30-18 at halftime.

The Tigers’ offense then came alive and they outscored the Falcons 43-21 in the second half.

Junior guard Garyn Hall led the charge by scoring 20 of his game and career-high 23 points after the break, nailing three 3-pointers in the third quarter and then sinking 11-of-13 free throws in the fourth period.

Senior Tanner Lee scored 10 points for Houston, while senior Hunter McKinney had 9 and senior Noah Gulick and junior Dakota James each had 8. The Tigers knocked down a season-high eight 3-point shots, with Hall drilling 4 and McKinney hitting 2, while James and sophomore John Kimrey sank 1 apiece.

Sophomores Brylon Mayberry and Ashton Roberts led Dora in scoring with 14 points each.

Against Willow Springs, Houston was behind 18-15 after a low-scoring first half. The Bears controlled the boards in the half and got numerous second chances with offensive rebounds, and they might have been ahead by a greater margin if not for being ice-cold from the field.

Willow Springs then took control in the third period, outscoring the Tigers 26-11, before the two teams exchanged blows in the final 8 minutes.

Hall led Houston in the contest scoring with 11 points, while McKinney had 8 and Gulick and Lee added 6 apiece.

The Tigers managed only 9 field goals in the game and went 15-for-25 from the foul line.

Senior guard Owen Duddridge led the Bears’ offense with 18 points, while senior Gabe Colvin and junior Scooter Osborn each had 8.

HHS junior Dakota James fights for rebounding position with Willow Springs senior Gabe Colvin (43) and junior Scooter Osborn last Thursday night in Mansfield.

Statistical information was not available from the game against Mansfield.

Top-seeded Norwood beat Willow Springs last Friday in the tournament’s championship game, 56-42.

The Tigers were short-handed in the tournament due to the departures of a couple of key players.

“I felt like we played our tails off,” said head coach Jim Moore. “We competed hard with the personnel we had and I’m very proud of all my boys that played.

“It took us a bit to adjust to a different lineup against Dora. We found ourselves down 12 at half, but I loved our resilience in the second half to play much more aggressive and as a team on our way to a 10 point win.” 

Houston’s deliberate, patient, slow-down approach in the game against fellow South Central Association squad Willow Springs was effective in the first half.

“We executed our game plan almost to perfection in the first half,” Moore said. “But we turned the ball over a couple of times to start the second half which led to scores for Willow, and we missed a couple wide open two-footers. This took us out of being able to continue with our game plan and we came up short.” 

Houston got off to a slow start against Mansfield and never recovered. 

“We put ourselves in catch-up mode all night,” Moore said. “Then we had a couple of injuries in the second half. Mansfield had chances to possibly run away from us, but once again I like our team’s resilience to continue to fight and remain competitive.”

The Tigers (3-3) take on county rival Plato in  home game this Friday (Dec. 17).

“We’re dealing with personnel changes on our team and some injuries,” Moore said. “We have some adversity going on that we’re dealing with, but I really like this teams resolve. We won’t back down from a challenge and we’re going to compete every day in practice and games. 

HHS head coach Jim Moore addresses his team during a timeout at Mansfield.

“We have some improvement to do, but we look forward to that process.”

The process will include simply finding a rhythm with a new mix.

“We’re going to work on getting players adjusted to new roles they will have to fill due to injuries and other players no longer a part of our team,” Moore said. “We’re going to work every day to improve.”

To view a photo gallery from the Tigers’ game against Willow Springs (with the option to purchase photos), click here.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Contact him by phone at 417-967-2000 or by email at ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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