WILBURTON – A dramatic second half rally came up just short for Rock Creek as the Mustangs saw their season end with a 53-47 loss to Central Sallisaw in the Class 2A Area Tournament Thursday night.
The Mustangs clawed back from a double-figure deficit midway through the third stanza but could never get over the hump and grab the lead while wrapping up the year with a 21-7 record.
Central Sallisaw utilized a length and size advantage to control the paint and the glass through the opening two quarters to build as much as a 12-point advantage.
The Mustangs got off to a fast start with four points in the game’s opening 37 seconds on buckets by Darian James and Dalton Dill.
Central immediately answered with a 9-0 flurry, cashing in a pair of Rock Creek turnovers along the way to take early control.
It was a 15-11 Central edge through one stanza before the Mustangs narrowed the gap to just one on a Davis Rogers trey with 6:36 left in the half.
That only seemed to spark the Tigers, who got a Joe Brewer three-pointer to counter and set off a 12-1 run that pushed the lead to double figures. Rock Creek’s lone point was a Karson Dry free throw for more than six minutes until Christian McGowan’s trey just before the horn trimmed the lead to 29-20 at the break.
The third quarter however belonged to Rock Creek, but not until the final three minutes.
Trailing 37-27, the Mustangs went to work with consecutive baskets from Austin Green, James and McGowan to cut the margin to four. After a Central bucket Rock Creek pumped in the last four points of the period from Green and James to make it just a two-point game.
Sam Roper’s driving basket to start the final frame knotted the score at 39 but the Mustangs never managed to take the lead.
A driving shot by James tied the game at 43 with 3:21 remaining and James fed Dry for a basket under the goal with 1:45 to play to make it 45-all.
James’ potential go-ahead shot attempt just to the left of the goal was blocked 25 seconds later and Central answered again with three free throws before a James layup narrowed the margin to 48-47.
The Tigers then scored the final five points of the contest to put it away.
James notched 14 points to lead the charge for Rock Creek, but was the only Mustang that reached double figures.
Rogers finished with six while Dry, McGowan and Brock Allen all scored five. Green and Shacona Vandenburg chipped in four apiece with Dill and Roper posting two.
Austin Brown topped Central Sallisaw with 18 points.
Contact Kevin Farr at 580-634-2161 or [email protected]