After trailing by 10 points early in the fourth quarter Monday night in Cougar Gym, the Cougar varsity battled back in the closing moments of the game, but ultimately fell 63-57 to the visiting Tigers of Breckinridge County.
In the opener, the two JV squads battled into overtime before the Tigers came out on top 47-44.
For the third straight game, the Cougars had to play much of the game without the services of senior Ethan Saltsman, but unlike the previous two, it was not foul trouble that sidelined the Cougar star.
At the 3:13 mark of the first quarter, Saltsman was caught up in the air on the sideline and fell hard to the floor. Though he stayed in the game, he came out after missing a pair of free throws, which he shot left-handed, in the second quarter.
Saltsman never returned to the game and was on the sidelines with an ice bag attached to his right forearm. He had been averaging double-figures for the Cougars, but had just two points in the loss to the Tigers.
When Logan Ramsey hit a three-pointer with 2:56 left in the first quarter, the Cougars held their largest lead of the night, 15-8. But the Tigers closed out the period with a 10-2 run and took a one-point lead, 18-17 into the second quarter.
The Cougars had eight turnovers in the first period, which led to six Tiger points. For the game, the Cougars turned the ball over 18 times, which the Tigers turned into 13 points.
Wyatt Skaggs buried a three at the 5:01 mark to tie the game once again, 22-22, but the Cougars would not score again in the period. Breck’s Kody Hughes hit a 15-footer with 3:04 left, then hit a 10-footer with 2:24 left and the Tigers took that four-point lead, 26-22 into the locker room at the half.
Talon Gary opened the third period with back-to-back baskets to tie the game again, 26-26 at the 6:55 mark. Breck’s Kirk Critchelow responded with a three-pointer to put the Tigers back on top, 29-26 at the 6:36 mark. The Tigers would hold the lead until the fourth quarter.
Rance Whobrey brought the Cougars to within two points of the lead, 34-32, following a 15-foot jumper. The Tigers then reeled off eight unanswered points to take their largest lead of the night, 10 points at 42-32 with 1:35 left.
The Cougars battled back in the closing moments, outscoring the Tigers 7-2 to cut their deficit to five points, 44-39 heading into the final period of play.
Breck’s Chris Morgan opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer and following a Cougar turnover, Ryan Rothrock hit a lay-up, and suddenly the Cougars were down 10 points once again with 7:16 left to play.
The Cougars then went on an 11-1 run, capped off by a Whobrey three at the 4:10 mark to catch up to the Tigers one last time, 50-50.
A Morgan three at the 3:05 mark gave the Tigers a five-point advantage, 55-50., but Gary hit his third three of the night with 2:49 left to make it a two-point game, 55-53.
A turning point then came with under two minutes to play. Trailing by two, 57-55, the Tigers missed a shot and the Cougars had the ball out of bounds. Braxton Williams then got free and went in for the tying layup, but the ball came up just short and bounced frustratingly off the rim.
The Tigers got the rebound and took it back in the other direction and Morgan scored on a lay-up. The four-point turnaround gave the Tigers a four-point advantage with 1:40 left to play and the Cougars were never closer than two points the rest of the way.
Breck put three players into double figures. Morgan and Critchelow both scored 17 points, and Hughes finished with 16.
Gary led all scorers with 20 points and made it a double-double night by pulling down 12 rebounds. Williams joined Gary in double figures with 10 points and added four rebounds.
Whobrey just missed double figures with nine points, and he added seven rebounds. Ramsey finished with seven points and Dustin Crain, who filled in admirably after Saltsman left the game, scored four points. Skaggs finished with three points, while Bret Johnston and Saltsman had two each to complete the scoring.
This was a close game from the start and stayed that way until the end. The Cougars led by as many as six points in the early going, and the Tigers built an eight-point lead in the third quarter, but most of the time the teams were within just a couple of points of one another.
Breck took a 6-4 lead at the 3:39 mark, but Wyatt Skaggs hit a three-pointer to put the Cougars on top 7-6. That was the start of an 11-1 Cougar run that saw them take their largest lead of the night, six points at 13-7 with 1:09 left in the period. The Tigers then scored the last three points and trailed by three, 13-10 heading into the second quarter.
Lane Decker hit a three-pointer for the Cougars to give them a four-point lead, 18-14 at the 4:24 mark, but the Tigers scored four straight to tie it 18-18 with 1:50 left in the first half. Tristan Willis buried a three for the Cougars with 1:16 left to put them up three, but Breck’s Darren Houchens scored on a put-back basket with 28 second left and the two teams were separated by just a point, 21-20 at the half.
The two teams traded the lead three times in the middle of the period before the Tigers put together a 9-0 run to take their largest lead of the night, eight points at 33-25 with 1:30 left. The Cougars then closed out the period on a 5-1 run to cut the deficit to just four points, 34-30 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Cougars trailed by five points, 38-33 with 3:15 left, when they scored six straight to take a one-point lead, 39-38 with 1:17 left to play.
Breck’s Luke Loughran went to the line for two shots with 1:02 left with the chance to put his team in the lead, but could hit just one to tie it at 39-39.
The Cougars then tried to run out the clock and take the last shot, but they missed their opportunity, sending the game into overtime.
After a Cougar turnover on the opening possession, Cody Mingus was fouled and hit 1-of-2 at the line to put the Tigers up by one. But the Cougars allowed the Tigers to rebound the missed free throw and Matthew Rhodes was fouled on a shot. Rhodes hit both free throws to put the Tigers up by three, 42-39 with 2:37 left to play.
Skaggs hit another three-pointer at the 1:39 mark to tie the game one last time before the Tigers got back-to-back baskets from Loughran and Brian Brumfield to build a four-point lead, 46-42 with 53 seconds remaining.
Ramsey scored with 24 seconds left to bring the Cougars to within two, but they would get no closer. Benjamin Miller hit 1-of-2 from the line with 16.8 seconds left to make the final margin three points.
Loughran and Miller led the Tigers with 12 and 11 points respectively.
Tanner Tyra scored 11 to lead the Cougars, and Lane Rackley added nine and pulled down six rebounds. Skaggs finished with eight points, while Ramsey had six and led the team on the boards with nine rebounds.
Lane Decker scored five points, Willis finished with three, and Zac Williams scored two to complete the Cougar scoring.