By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
The Belton Tigers tipped off their stay at the 2015 Greenville Holiday Classic Thursday morning against the Class 5A Prosper Eagles, the first game of a two-game Pool A round robin series.
The Tigers trailed by as many as 10 points and fought back numerous times, but couldn’t overcome the Eagles, as they fell 60-56.
The loss drops the Tigers to 5-6 on the season and 0-1 in Pool B. Matt Blozis hit the first points for the Eagles 17 seconds into the game. Ruben Freeman responded with a 12-foot jumper 25 seconds later to even the score at 2-2. Kahlil Adams and Tyler Quinlan sandwiched field goals around a Jackson McGowan free-throw to make the score 6-3. Carson Hammond’s three-pointer tied the score at 6-6 with 5:44 remaining in the first quarter before Prosper went on an 8-0 run over the next 5:17 to take a 14-6 lead.
McGowan got an in-paint feed from Freeman and scored to break the string and Hammond’s three-pointer with two seconds remaining in the quarter drew the Tigers to within five at the end of the quarter, 14-11.
Prosper opened the quarter with 9-3 run over the second quarter’s opening 4:56 to open up a nine-point lead. Steven Sauls’ in-paint score and a pair of McGowan jumpers worked the deficit back to seven points by the end of the half, 27-20.
McGowan’s jumper 1:16 into the third quarter brought the Tigers back to within five points. Ian Trautmann’s successful three-point shot gave the Eagles an eight-point lead. McGowan sunk four consecutive free-throws to bring the Tigers back to within four.
The Eagles went on a 5-0 run and the Tigers missed a chance to stall out the sprint due to a trio of missed free-throws. With the score 37-28, Belton went on a 11-4 run over the quarter’s final two minutes. McGowan scored six of the 11 points, Hammond drained another three-pointer and Izaiah Jones hit a field goal to put the Tigers to within a basket at the end of the third quarter, 41-39.
The teams traded baskets in the fourth quarter, with Jordan Russell scoring five points during the first three minutes of the quarter and the Tigers were within a point, 47-46. The Tigers and Eagles played very physical during the second half, with 24 fouls called and Prosper started pulling away on free-throws. Dontori Lott hit a pair of free-throws of his own to pull the Tigers to within a point at 49-48.
With the score 49-48, Prosper got baskets from Adams, Blozis and Taveion White in a 1:32 sequence to give the Eagles a 55-48 lead with 2:14 to go. Kiron Griffin, Jr. hit a three-pointer, Jarian Kerley hit a field goal and McGowan had a free-throw for combined for a 6-1 run and Belton trailed 56-54. Prosper took advantage of two late Belton fouls, as Adams hit a pair of free-throws and a field goals to give the Eagles separation at the end. Russell’s layup with one second left narrowed the deficit to four points, but not enough to pull out the victory.
McGowan led all scorers with 20 points and Hammond added 11 for the Tigers. Belton had 10 players score.
Prosper got balanced scoring with Adams scoring 10, White scoring nine and Blozis and Quinlan each scoring eight points.
The Tigers were 17-of-27 from the free-throw line and Prosper went 20-of-31.
The team rested on Thursday night and took on Seagoville in the second pool game. The Dragons were decimated by Prosper 62-36 in their pool game.
The Tigers and Dragons came out and traded baskets before Belton pulled ahead at the end of the first quarter 16-12.
Russell, Hammond, McGowan and Izaiah Jones all scored in the second quarter, as each team scored 12 points, but Belton held a four-point advantage, 28-24.
Belton was able to break free with a 16-9 third quarter and led 44-33. The Dragons made up just a single point of ground in a 12-11 final stanza and the Tigers captured the ball game 55-45.
Russell had 14 points, Hammond netted 11 points, McGowan had eight points and Jones chipped in seven.
The victory earned the Tigers a berth in the silver bracket semifinals against the host school, Greenville. Ideally, not the bracket they wanted to be in as defending champions. But the competition was just as tough.
Belton jumped on the Lions early, as McGowan established his presence inside and Russell and Hammond established their dominance outside. Getting plenty of help from Lott, Kerley, Chaz Vriseno, Griffin, Jordin Ellis, Ruben Freeman and Wesley Gossett, the Tigers led 17-9 at the end of the first quarter and 34-19 at halftime.
The Tigers got hot in the third quarter, outshooting the Lions 26-14. Jones had eight points and McGowan had six points as the Tigers led 60-33 at the start of the fourth quarter. Greenville rallied back for a 16-9 fourth quarter advantage, but couldn’t catch the Tigers. Belton qualified for the silver bracket finals with a 69-49 win.
Belton played Cedar Hill Trinity Christian in the silver bracket final.
The teams played basket-for-basket and tied at 12-12 at the end of the first quarter. Ellis helped the Tigers heat up in the second quarter, as Belton edged CHTC in the period 15-8 and took a 27-20 lead into halftime.
In the third quarter, Belton was able to extend their lead to 10 points, 36-26. CHTC rallied for a 15-10 quarter, but only cut the deficit in half as Belton won the silver bracket championship with a 46-41 win.
McKinney North won the Greenville Holiday Classic Gold Bracket final with a victory over Prosper.
Belton went 3-1 for the tournament and improved their season record to 8-5.
”Seeing how we took that loss against Prosper on Thursday, I thought we bounced back really well,” President said. “We did the things down the stretch that we have been harping on, closing out ball games and executing, hitting free throws, taking care of the basketball and rebounding. It’s part of our growth, so to come out and see the team win their next three games was big time for us.”