By Amanda Perkins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Dora Falcons came into the Cabool Tournament with an opportunity to pick up some statement wins.
They got the first one of those by beating defending Class 1 state champion Eminence on Friday in the semifinals.
They got a second one on Saturday in the tournament championship by beating No. 1 seed Licking 63-61 in an instant classic. The Wildcats are also ranked No. 6 in Class 3.
Licking held a narrow lead until the final quarter. The game would see-saw back and forth with five ties in the final frame. Locked in a tie with 40 seconds left, the Wildcats turned the ball over and Dora capitalized. Austin Luna stuck the layup and drew a foul, making his shot from the charity stripe to lead by three.
Licking’s GT Nicholson answered with a bucket for the Wildcats to cut the lead to 1. The Wildcats would send Dora’s Isaac Haney to the line where he would extend the lead to two with 19 seconds to play.
The game was now in the hands of the Wildcats. Licking missed the first shot attempt at the game winner, but it appeared Carter Rinne was able to lay the ball in as time expired to send the game into overtime.
As the crowd erupted and each side questioned the outcome, the referees decided the shot time had run out the Falcons were the Cabool Tournament champions.
“It was extremely close,” said Licking head coach Ben Glasgow. “With your heart, you think he gets it off in time and you really don’t know, no one was waving it off, so you think it’s going to be good… but that’s out of our hands, there’s nothing we can do about that. Carter Rinne came in and made that play at the end. Whether they count it or whether they don’t, it was a phenomenal play on his part.”
Dora’s Isaac Haney led all scorers with 28 points on the night and was named the tournament MVP.
“We’ve never won this tournament in program history, so it was a great team effort,” he said. “My 28 doesn’t mean anything unless we get a W.”
“He had a great tournament and was the well-deserved MVP,” said Coach Luna.
Licking led by five after the first quarter and by three at the half thanks to James Swan’s 12 inside points and Kaden Quick’s 15 points from behind the arc. Isaac Haney kept Dora in the game with his 15 points in the half. Dora trailed by three to enter the final frame, but Isaac Haney opened the fourth with a shot from downtown to tie the game. The Falcons made 11 of their 18 total points in the fourth quarter from the free throw line.
As Glasgow noted, it was a battle of two skilled teams with contrasting styles.
“They’re little and fast and they were a matchup nightmare for us, and we’re big and long and we’re a matchup nightmare for them. We never really fell behind very far or they could have really put the hurt on us – they did a little bit at the end – but we were still close enough that it was a one-possession game. We did what we needed to do early, and then turnovers began to dictate the game, and that’s what got us.”
“It was an exciting game,” said Dora head coach Rick Luna. “Licking is a very good opponent; I think they’ve won 18 of their last 19 games on this floor. They’ve got a great tradition.”
“Our guys got down and we kept battling and finally took the lead there in the fourth quarter. I thought once we got the lead we could spread them out a little bit. We missed a few free throws that hurt, and normally we make those. But the best thing about this bunch is their heart and their hustle and they just don’t ever give up. They played together as a team, and they are fun to watch when they do that.”
Coach Luna said they will enjoy the tournament win, but his Falcons will continue to aim at district play and beyond.
“Beating Eminence now is real big for us, beating Licking is good, but we will have Eminence in our same district, and it is going to be bittersweet if we can’t beat them again. We have a long road ahead of us, and we will still just go one day at a time,” he said.
Dora now holds an 11-1 record.
The Wildcats took their first loss of the season.
“Our schedule is getting ready to get really tough, and it is good for us to play teams of Thayer and Dora’s caliber,” said Glasgow.
“This means that we are capable of being good and playing with good teams,” he added. “As far as the caliber of our team, whether that shot goes in and we win in overtime or whether we win by two or lose, really doesn’t change a whole lot but does give us some things we need to work on. Any time you play against really good teams it is going to make you better.”
Eight were named to the all-tournament team: Isaac Haney, Dora (Tournament MVP); Grady Todd, Plato; Ayden Stone, Thayer; Wade Dyer, Eminence; Bryson Luna, Dora; Kaden Quick, Licking; Mason Luna, Dora; GT Nicholson, Licking
Scoring for Dora: Isaac Haney 28, Bryson Luna 12, Mason Luna 14, Waylon Masters 6, Austin Luna 3
Scoring for Licking: Carter Rinne 3, Wilson Murray 5, Michael Milhizer 5, Garrett Duncan 3, GT Nicholson 11, Kaden Quick 20, James Swan 14