HHS senior Noah Gulick puts up a shot during the third quarter of the Tigers’ loss to Mansfield in a district tournament game last Saturday in Houston’s new gym. Credit: DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

The same issue that had caused problems for the Houston High School boys basketball team on multiple occasions over the past several weeks plagued the squad again in a Missouri State High School Activities Association Class 3 District 10 Tournament game last Saturday: Scoring points.

This time, the Tigers fell 69-19 to Mansfield in a first round contest on their home court.

“We struggled to put the ball in the hole and got behind,” said HHS head coach Jim Moore, “and that was about it – it was over.”

Seeded sixth in the six-team bracket, Houston fell behind 17-3 by the end of the first quarter and never recovered. Taking advantage of significant height and depth advantages, the No. 3 Lions were on top 37-12 by halftime.

The Tigers played hard again on offense and defense, but Mansfield’s depth and talent was enough to keep the host team at bay, and the Lions’ full-court press wreaked havoc on Houston ball-handlers early on.

“They were really physical,” Moore said, “and we didn’t do a very good job of handling their pressure of their physicality.”

HHS freshman Jordan Arthur makes a move to the basket in front of Mansfield junior Chase Kelley during the second quarter of the Tigers’ loss last Saturday. Arthur was Houston’s leading scorer in the contest.

Freshman guard Jordan Arthur came off the bench and led Houston in scoring in the contest with 7 points, while senior forward Noah Gulick had 4.

Junior Tom Emerick led the Lions’ offense with a game-high 28 points. The 6-5 forward had his way on both ends of the court, dropping 13 short-range field goals while also dominating the boards.

“He’s something else,” Moore said. “He’s so athletic and really adds another dimension to them. He caused us a lot of issues.”

Junior guard Chase Cartwright also scored in double-figures for Mansfield with 11 points, while junior forward Stone Sawyers added 9.

“We played hard again,” Moore said, “and that has kind of become the identity of the team. These kids have a lot of heart and never gave up. We just didn’t have quite enough horses.”

HHS senior Hunter McKinney is greeted by assistant coach Rodney Preheim while coming to the bench during the fourth quarter of last Saturday’s district tournament game.

On Tuesday of last week, Houston fell to Willow Springs in a South Central Association home game, 49-20.

The Tigers (6-17, 1-5 SCA) were scheduled to host Salem on Wednesday of this week in a game that was postponed from last Thursday due to winter weather, but as of press time, the matchup was in doubt for the same reason.

The Tigers dealt with an almost unheard of number of roster reductions during the season, as seven upperclassmen and two underclassmen who were in uniform at the beginning weren’t by mid-January.

“We went through a lot of adversity – especially early,” Moore said. “But I’m so proud of the guys who stuck it out; they’re good kids and I’m proud of the way they fought the whole year.”

At the beginning of the season, the squad was on a mission to “change the culture” within the program.

“What we thought that meant at the beginning was not what it meant at the end,” Moore said. “But I would say that the boys who remained did change the culture of our program. The ones who didn’t make it to the end, we missed them for sure. But we got down to the guys who were in it for the long run, and that says a lot about them.

“But I think we did change the culture; it may not have been in the win column, but these kids showed a lot of grit and they can be proud of what they did for the program, and hopefully they became better people because of it.

“I think it all bodes well for the future and sets the tone for what our program is going to be about going forward. And that’s important.”

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

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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