The seven Boyd-Buchanan basketball seniors accomplished one of their biggest goals Wednesday night when they defended their Region 3-A championship.
Now that the Bucs have equaled the achievements they earned as juniors, they can finally look ahead to a second chance at the one that eluded them.
With a 66-56 victory over Sale Creek in front of a full house at Arts & Sciences, Boyd-Buchanan earned the right to host a Class A state sectional for the second year in a row. When the Bucs meet the Region 4-A runner up Monday night, the memory of last year's loss in that round will provide even more motivation.
"We do think about it," Boyd-Buchanan senior and tournament MVP QD Cox said of last year's sectional game. "We have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder, but we know we have to take it one game at a time. We're not looking too far ahead. We just want to make sure that we win every day in practice, and we win every game."
The Bucs gave up the first basket Wednesday, a 3-pointer from Sale Creek's Chase Janow, but after Zach Jenkins put them ahead 4-3 40 seconds into the game, they never trailed again. Jenkins contributed eight of the points in Boyd-Buchanan's 12-0 first quarter run, and Justus McMillian's 3-pointer from the top of the key just before the buzzer put them up 15-9.
"It is about scoring and hitting shots, but really it's more about the defensive effort," Bucs coach Cole Rose said. "Defensively, the first six minutes of the game were really good for us, and I was really, really pleased with that."
Cox opened the second quarter with a 3, and the Bucs pulled away for a 34-20 halftime lead. Janow, who finished with a game-high 28 points, helped Sale Creek rally in the third, when the Panthers cut their deficit to seven points.
They opened the fourth quarter trailing just 48-40, but the Bucs responded with a steal and layup from Hall Allen, and baskets from Austin Walker and McMillan to extend the margin back to 54-41.
"When you have seven seniors, you don't have to keep informing them over and over that basketball is a game of runs," Rose said. "They realize that, and usually they can adjust on their own and get right back to it. I thought they responded very well."
"Sale Creek was really good tonight. They've been really good all season, but the last three weeks or so have been incredible. We knew we were playing a really hot team."
McMillan led four Bucs in double figures with 18 points, followed by Jenkins with 14, Cox with 13, and Walker with 12. Boyd-Buchanan's unselfish play and balanced scoring makes it difficult to single out any individual honors, but Rose was pleased to see Cox accept the MVP award after the victory.
"For us, who scored the most points is not really even indicative of who played the best," Rose said. "QD is a guy who doesn't always score a ton, but he's so big for us defensively and with the passes that he makes, so I'm glad that he was able to get the MVP. Fortunately for us, our guys are really unselfish and they don't worry too much about that stuff."
Sale Creek's historic season will also continue on Monday, when the Panthers travel to face the 4-A champion in the sectionals. Boyd-Buchanan, now 27-3, will have the advantage of hosting the runner-up from that region.
"The sectional is such an important thing, as we learned the hard way last year," Rose said. "Playing it at home was one of our goals, so we're definitely proud of that. And we're proud of being region champions, and of beating some quality teams to get here."
In the closely-fought girls' championship game, Arts & Sciences led Van Buren County 24-21 at the half but gave up that advantage in the third. The Lady Patriots' Sarah McElvain scored the last basket of the period to tie it at 37, and a 3-pointer from Lennex Walker put CSAS up 43-39 with 6:02 left to play.
Van Buren County would hold Arts & Sciences scoreless for nearly the next four minutes, however. Their 10-0 run ended when Sheridan Randolph banked a 3, and Brooke Mitchell then scored to get the Lady Patriots back within 49-48.
The Lady Eagles went 1-for-3 from the line in the final minute, and although CSAS had several looks at a basket that could've sent the game to overtime, the final buzzer sounded with both teams scrambling for the loose ball after a missed basket.
Lakelyn Bouldin led Van Buren County with 20 points, while Keturah Billen led Arts & Sciences with 18. Both teams will play in the Class A state sectionals on Saturday, with Van Buren hosting the 4-A runner-up and CSAS on the road against the region champion.
(E-mail Jaime Barrett at email@example.com)
Region 3-A Championship Games
VAN BUREN COUNTY GIRLS 50, ARTS & SCIENCES 48
Van Buren 13 7 16 13 -- 50
CSAS 11 13 13 11 -- 48
Van Buren (50) -- Cole 7, Dodson, H. Christian, Lakelyn Bouldin 20, Hitchcock 4, Allison McCoy 12, S. Christian 7.
CSAS (48) -- Little 4, Keturah Billen 18, McElvain 7, Mitchell 4, Lennex Walker 10, Randolph 5, Montgomery.
3-point goals: Van Buren County 4 (Bouldin 2, Cole 2); CSAS 3 (Walker 2, Randolph).
BOYD-BUCHANAN 66, SALE CREEK 56
Sale Creek 9 11 20 16 -- 56
Boyd-Buchanan 15 19 14 18 -- 66
Sale Creek (56) -- Barton 4, Abbott 8, Mobley 2, Huffman, Tuner 3, Chase Janow 28, Hodge 2, Daniel 9.
Boyd-Buchanan (66) -- Allen 6, Justus McMillan 18, QD Cox 13, Austin Walker 12, Zach Jenkins 14, Arendale, Nason 3, Macon.
3-point goals: Sale Creek 7 (Abbott 2, Janow 2, Daniel 2, Turner); Boyd-Buchanan 8 (McMillan 4, Cox 2, Walker 2).