To say the Mustangs and the Bears are evenly matched on the basketball court would be a huge understatement. The two teams played Friday night at Dr. Pauline Colburn Hargrove Gymnasium and no more than five points separated them through regulation play and an overtime period.
The crosstown rivals entered the game with identical 1-2 records in district action. The West Orange-Stark Mustangs evened their record in district and took a one game lead in the district standings over the Little Cypress-Mauriceville Bears with a 70-68 win in overtime.
It would be difficult to say who was the hero for West Orange-Stark as four of its five starters scored in double figures. Free throw shooting proved to be decisive down the stretch though. Bjan Arvie and Nakai Arnold both made three free throws in the overtime to make the difference.
On the other side, Braden Bridges was clearly the player of the game scoring 45 points. Bridges scored at least seven in every quarter including the overtime. He made five three-pointers, the last one with 9.7 seconds left in the overtime to cut the Mustangs lead to one point.
West Orange-Stark’s Jalen Jefferson made the second of two free throws to increase the Mustangs’ lead to two points with five seconds to play in the overtime. LC-M in bounded the ball to Bridges who dribbled across mid-court before launching a shot that would have been the game winner. The ball caromed off the backboard, and was actually rebounded by the Bears after a scramble. The buzzer sounded before a second shot could be taken.
The first quarter started well for Little Cypress-Mauriceville as Bridges hit four field goals and both free throws after a technical foul was called on the Mustangs’ Terron Brown for grabbing the rim of the basket. Landon Bearden gave the Bears a 14-10 advantage with less than two minutes remaining in the quarter.
The Mustangs’ Darryl Bowens made a basket to cut the lead to one. With 30 seconds to go in the period Arnold gave WO-S its first lead of the game 15-14 by nailing a three.
Brown, whose only points in the first were on three-point play, added four more in the second quarter. Bridges totaled eight of the Bears’ ten points in the second period before the teams went to the locker room with West Orange-Stark up 26-24 at the half.
The third quarter saw both teams tally 16 points to keep the game close. The Bears’ Ethan McCollum had four of his six points for the game in the third. Bowens had six and Brown had five to help keep WO-S on top 42-40 going to the fourth quarter.
That quarter was a microcosm of the whole game. The teams exchanged the lead back-and-forth. Brown put the Mustangs up by five 47-42 and it looked like the game was about to be broken open for the visitors.
Bridges saved his best shooting for the fourth quarter. He hit back-to-back threes and then another field goal to give LC-M a 50-49 lead with 4:45 to play in regulation.
Now it was Jesse Doucette’s time to shine. Doucette who was scoreless in the first three quarters scored nine points in about 90 seconds to put Little Cypress-Mauriceville up by five 59-54 with just over two minutes left in regulation.
The lead would last about 45 seconds as Brown scored the next five points. His third three-point play of the contest knotted the score 59-59 with 1:20 to go in the fourth.
Not surprisingly, LC-M looked to Bridges to regain the lead 61-59. Arnold reciprocated by hitting a clutch basket to tie the game again.
Both teams had chances to score the decisive points in the closing minute of the fourth, but missed sending the game to an extra period. Terry Harris scored his only field goal of the game with 90 seconds left in the overtime to give West Orange-Stark a 63-61 lead. Thirty seconds later Arvie made one of his seven successful free throws in the game to increase the lead to three.
Although Bridges would score all seven of LC-M’s points in the OT, he never could gain a tie. The Mustangs scored seven of their nine points in the extra quarter from the free throw line.
Fouling out in the fourth quarter with 21 points was Brown for West Orange-Stark. Arvie took the lead after Brown left and finished with 17 points. Arnold had 15 and Bowens chipped in with 10 tallies for the Mustangs.
The leading scorer was obviously Bridges with his 45 points. He was the only Bear in double figures, but Doucette did total 9, while both Jackson Smith and McCollum scored six points.
District action will resume next Tuesday. West Orange-Stark will travel to play the Lumberton Raiders in a game that could help the Mustangs in their chase for third place in the district. Little Cypress-Mauriceville has its work cut out for it as the Bears play on the road against the defending state champion Silsbee Tigers.
-Dan Perrine, KOGT-
WOS 15 11 16 19 9- 70
LCM 14 10 16 21 7- 68