HHS junior guard Garyn Hall puts up a shot during the second quarter of the Tigers' overtime loss to Van Buren in the first round of the Houston Community Foundation Tournament Monday night in Houston's new gym. Credit: DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

It wasn’t exactly an offensive showcase, but it was definitely a competitive game.

In a first round contest in the inaugural Houston Community Foundation Tournament Monday in Houston’s new gym, the host Tigers fell to Van Buren 37-34 in overtime.

Seeded fourth in the eight-team event, Houston trailed 15-7 early in the second quarter, but scored 6 unanswered points to cut the deficit to 15-13 at halftime.

After HHS senior Tanner Lee sank a shot from the low blocks to knot the score at 15-all at the outset of the third quarter, the fifth-seeded Bulldogs went on a 7-0 run and led 22-15 after a 3-pointer by senior guard Landon Hayworth with 3:30 left in the period.

The Tigers came back again, tying the score at 26-all when junior forward Harold Lassiter finished a fast break with a layup with 7:10 to go in regulation and then building a 32-27 lead on a short basket by Lassiter at the 2:40 mark.

But Van Buren responded, and the score was even at 32 apiece after Hayworth connected on a floating bank shot from the left side of the lane with 1:11 remaining. The Bulldogs then regained possession with about a half minute to go and ran the clock down with the intention of getting the last shot. But with 8 seconds left, the ball got away from Hayworth and went out of bounds on the right sideline near half court.

Houston ended up getting the last shot, but a 3-pointer by senior Hunter McKinney went in-and-out to force overtime.

The Tigers took the lead at 34-32 when Lee sank a pair of free throws early in the extra 4-minute session, but that was all the scoring they would do. The Bulldogs took the lead for good when junior forward Evan Ricker buried a pair of foul shots with 1:45 left, and added a point when Hayworth sank 1-of-2 free throws with 10 seconds to go.

HHS junior guard Dakota James protects the ball in a key full of defenders during the fourth quarter of the Tigers’ overtime loss to Van Buren in the first round of the Houston Community Foundation Tournament Monday night in Houston’s new gym.

Both teams benefited from effective full-court defensive pressure during their comebacks. Neither squad had an advantage at the charity stripe, as the Tigers went 10-for-15 from the line and Van Buren went 10-for-17.

Only four players scored for Houston. Lassiter had another double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while McKinney and junior point guard Garyn Hall each had 8 and Lee added 6.

Hayworth led the Bulldogs in scoring with 16 points, while Ricker had 6 and his brother Caleb Ricker added 5.

HHS head coach Jim Moore said the loss stung, but he was pleased with how hard the Tigers played.

“They do battle,” Moore said, “and they never give up. We’re trying to get the most out of our abilities.”

Since a few major roster changes took place several weeks ago, the Tigers have had difficulty sustaining offensive production. Just a couple more baskets would have made a huge difference against Van Buren.

“We struggled to score at times,” Moore said. “We had our opportunities – even point-blank looks – but they just didn’t fall. We talked afterward about how everybody, including myself, could look back and wonder what we might have done differently. In a game like that, there are always a few things that could have changed the outcome if they had gone different.

“That was a tough one to lose. It’s still kind of painful, to be honest.”


The first South Central Association conference game of the season didn’t turn out as the Tigers had hoped, as they fell last Friday at Mountain Grove, 72-34.

Houston got on the board first in the contest on a 3-pointer by Lee, but the host Panthers then took control and led 27-11 at the end of the first quarter and 46-11 at halftime.

Mountain Grove employed full-court defensive pressure through much of the first half that wreaked havoc on Houston ball handlers, and used a height advantage to dominate the boards on both ends of the floor from beginning to end.

Players reach for a rebound during the first quarter of an SCA game last Friday at Mountain Grove, including Houston senior Tanner Lee (11) and junior Harold Lassiter (23), along with Mountain Grove seniors Bryce Stenzel (10) and Jase Dowden.

The Panthers combined to sink 14 shots from 3-point range and went 9-for-11 from the free throw line. Meanwhile, the Tigers sank two treys and were 4-for-5 from the line.

Junior guard Dakota James led Houston in scoring in the game with 10 points, while Lee and sophomore John Kimrey had 8 apiece.

Senior guard Kayden Bruce spearheaded the Panthers’ offensive onslaught, nailing five 3-point shots and going 5-for-5 from the charity stripe on the way to scoring a game-high 26 points. Senior guard Bryce Stenzel hit three treys and finished with 10 points for Mountain Grove, while senior forward Jase Dowden had 9 and sophomore guard Bradley Henry added 8.

“Once again, we struggled to score,” Moore said. “We actually started with a few good possessions, but then we turned the ball over too much and didn’t execute. They’re a good team and put a lot of pressure on us, but we just didn’t hang very well in the first half.”

Houston regrouped at the break and was outscored 26-23 in the second half.

Houston senior Hunter McKinney maneuvers with the ball near the 3-point arc during the fourth quarter of the Tigers’ loss last Friday at Mountain Grove.

“They kept pressuring us,” Moore said. “We knew they were going to keep taking it to us if they could, because that’s just the rivalry we have. But we did a nice job of staying with them in the second half.

“We talked about how it was a tough loss and we don’t like losing, but when you play a team like that you try to find things to learn from and try to be a better team the next time you go out there and play.”

The win was an encore to the Panthers’ 70-25 victory over Houston in the Blue and Gold Tournament Dec. 28 in Springfield.

The Tigers continue play in their home tournament with a consolation bracket game against eighth-seeded Koshkonong at 5:30 p.m. Friday (Jan. 21). The event’s third-place game is set for 5:30 p.m. Saturday, while the championship matchup is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m.

“We’re going to watch film from the Van Buren game and the Mountain Grove game as well,” Moore said. “We’re going to look at things that are glaring and we can fix right away, but we’re also going to focus on things we did well and improve on that.

“Now it’s about winning two games in our tournament, and we’re looking forward to the opportunity to compete and to try to get some hardware.”

The Tigers travel to Seymour on Thursday, Jan. 27, before playing six straight SCA games prior to the Class 3 District 10 playoffs.

“That won’t be easy,” Moore said. “But we’ll be playing our best when districts get here, and maybe we can knock off someone we’re not supposed to.”

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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