They almost pitched a shutout in the first quarter and led by a dozen at halftime, but the Houston High School basketball Tigers were defeated 59-51 by Fordland in a consolation bracket game during the second annual Houston Community Foundation Tournament on Tuesday of last week in Houston’s New Gym.
Seeded seventh in the seven-team event, the Tigers jumped out to a 14-0 lead at the outset of the contest and held the No. 6 Eagles scoreless until only 52 seconds remained in the period. Houston went on top 10-0 when junior forward Stone Jackson knocked down a 3-point shot with 3:45 to go in the quarter and kept Fordland at zero on a big blocked shot by sophomore center Brody Adkison at the 2:47 mark.
The Tigers maintained the lead throughout the back-and-forth second quarter and went into the break with a 27-15 advantage after Adkison sank a short shot at the buzzer.
But on the strength of an offensive outburst by senior guard Bryce Fries and cranked-up full-court defensive pressure that caused numerous turnovers, the Eagles came back in the third quarter and led 36-35 going into the final period after Fries grabbed and offensive rebound and scored from close range with 2 seconds to go.
With Fries making his presence known on both ends of the floor, Fordland established a 52-42 advantage with just under a minute left in the contest. With time running down and Houston forced to foul to stop the clock, the Eagles responded at the charity stripe and sank 12-of-18 free throws in the fourth quarter.
Fries didn’t score a point in the first half but poured in 20 in the second half to lead all scorers in the game, while senior guard Logan Swanson went 7-for-8 from the foul line in the fourth period and finished with 15 points.
Sophomore forward Brady Brookshire led Houston in scoring with 16 points, but was hindered by foul trouble and spent much of the second half on the bench. Sophomore guard Jordan Arthur scored 6 points in the fourth quarter and finished with 11, while junior forward Stone Jackson added 9.
“We played our hearts out and with the will to win,” said HHS head coach Jim Moore. “The first half, we played about as well as we can play on both ends of the floor. That’s how we built a 12-point lead at half. Unfortunately, we showed our youth and inexperience in the third quarter.”
Turnovers ultimately doomed the Tigers in the second half.
“Credit Fordland for picking up the intensity and putting a ton of pressure on us defensively,” Moore said. “We didn’t take care of the ball like we should. We got a little lackadaisical with the ball, which led to some easy transition baskets from Fordland.
“We were also in foul trouble causing some of our key players to be on the bench for a considerable amount of time, and we missed too many free throws as well.”
Despite not having a ‘W’ to show for it, the Tigers have made plenty of progress since game one of the season, and their defects aren’t due to effort or talent.
“All these things are symptoms of youth,” moore said. “We will learn from it and continue to improve. This team has grown and improved a ton from the beginning of the year. Attitudes are good and we work our tails off everyday to be better than the day before.
“We aren’t winning much on the scoreboard, but we are learning and establishing a culture that is going to set us up for success in the near future.”
In the opening round of the event on Monday (Jan. 16), Houston fell 85-55 to second-seeded Couch.
The outcome of the contest was all but decided in the first half, as the Indians led 22-8 at the end of the first quarter and 49-20 at halftime.
Senior forward Harold Lassiter led the Tigers in scoring in the game with 15 points, while Brookshire had 12, Arthur had 11 and Jackson added 8.
Couch senior Matthew Morey drilled six 3-pointers and scored 25 points in the first half on the way to finishing with a game-high 33 points. Three other Indians scored in double-figures, as freshman Dylan Larson had 17 points (including three treys), freshman Kendrick Williams had 12 and junior Blake Williams added 10.
Couch beat third-seeded Summersville 63-57 in a semifinal game on Tuesday, while No. 1 Bakersfield topped No. 4 Cabool 52-33 in the other semifinal. The tournament championship contest is set for 8 p.m. Thursday (Jan. 19).