On a night of big-time NBA playoff action, two teams squared off at the Community Building in their own championship game. With flashes of defense and a lot of running, the game resembled an all-star contest and ended with a 59-41 Hoopster victory against Cougars Court.
The Cougars took the board first on a free throw, but the Hoopsters, on the hot shooting of Nick Jaimez, quickly took control and sprinted to a 16-7 lead at the end of the quarter. Jaimez made four shots for nine points in the period.
"The biggest key to our win was beating them back in transition," Jaimez said. "We got a lot of easy fast break points, which really helped."
As the Hoopsters continued to run, their lead continued to swell. Early in the second quarter, Hoopster guard Evan Sloan went on a 6-0 run by himself, getting two of the buckets on fast break layups. After scoring two more unanswered buckets, the Cougars were forced to call timeout and regroup after going down 28-11 just before halftime. They cut into the lead but still trailed by ten points at the half.
"Our biggest thing was not getting back on defense," Cougars forward Stu Coldsnow said.
Coldsnow would attempt to carry his team on the comeback trail in the second half. He managed to score 11 points in the second half, nine of those coming in the fourth quarter. The Cougars appeared to have something going when they cut the lead to just seven points early in the fourth, but couldn't get over the hump.
The score at that point was 44-37 when Hoopster guards Christian Nelson and Connor Scott went on a 10-0 tear to put their team back up 13 points and essentially secure the championship victory. After a Coldsnow bucket, Nelson simply took over scoring six straight points on fast breaks and the offensive glass. Sloan took the cue from his teammate and scored the next four points of the game, including a crafty steal and layup that served as the final dagger.
"They looked a little tired in the fourth quarter," Nelson said of the Cougars. "We knew the fourth quarter was our time to kick up the pressure and that's exactly what we did."
The Hoopsters took the victory in stride. After taking fourth place in their last tournament, it felt nice to win one, but they all looked forward to the next opportunity to play.
The Cougars also took the defeat in stride, confident in their play, but knowing they need to work on some things to get the victory next time.
"We just need play wisely and be more organized in transition defense," Coldsnow said.
Once the issues are identified, it's all about execution and both teams look forward to executing their game plan in the next tournament down the road.