By Scott Vanscoy (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
In the championship game of the Crane Tournament the two teams each came in on a roll. Billings (11-5), had won eight of their last nine, and Crane (11-4) had won four straight, so something had to give. By the end of the night Crane had defeated Billings, 82-37.
“We knew it was going to be a packed house,” said Crane senior Isaiah Smith. “They are a rival, they live right next to us. We knew we had to bring it, it wasn’t going to be easy.”
Crane got off to a hot start in the first quarter, going up 18-0 on Billings before the Wildcats could get on the scoreboard. Billings didn’t know what hit them as they fell further behind. At the end of the first, the score was 22-7. Crane used a tenacious defense, causing turnovers and mistakes by the Wildcats. The Pirates also dominated the boards, getting offensive rebounds at will, allowing for easy put-backs.
Billings in the second quarter managed to show a little life as the Wildcats started to score, but Crane answered every one of their buckets and then some. At halftime, the game was all but over as Crane led 54-21.
“We wanted to come out and try to set the tempo, defensively,” said Crane coach Kevin Smith. “We put good pressure on the ball the best we could and tried to get them out of sorts on their offense. We’ve been trying to do that quite a bit this year and the kids are doing a really fine job of it. I know that Billings is good, and they didn’t have their best showing tonight. They’ll be better next time; Coach Tilley and those kids will bounce back. I was really proud of our kids and our rotation and our chemistry. Everybody’s job is to rebound and play defense. Their jobs may change as we go on offense. We watched a lot of film and I saw something that we could use to help get the ball inside. It really opened up the outside later.”
The second half saw the Wildcats try to claw their way back into the game, to no avail. Crane’s defense was too overwhelming. Billings made one three point shot the entire game, compared to 10 drained by the Pirates. At the end of the third quarter the score was 75-31.
“We didn’t play well, Crane is good for a reason,” said Billings coach Kendall Tilley. “They kind of took it to us early and put us in a hole and we didn’t respond well. Hopefully we see these guy a couple more times, we learn from this and find a way to make it a better ball game next time. It’s tough to get beat, it’s tough to play poorly. Guys get down easily on themselves. We talked at half time about forgetting about the score and just coming out and playing a better second half. I thought we started doing some things a little better, got the ball inside a little more. We’ve just got to learn from it and get back on another win streak if we can. We’ve got conference starting up in a couple of weeks so it’s import to get back doing what we’ve been doing this whole season.”
The fourth quarter saw Crane ease up on the Wildcats offensively but they kept up the defensive pressure.
“Tonight’s game was all about defense,” said Crane senior Brecken Vaught. “Our goal was to limit them on points and stop their momentum. Offense will come if we keep playing defense. I was guarding Colton Plowman, and my goal was to limit his points and to contest his shots. He’s their best scorer and it was my job to shut him down.”
The final score was 82-37. Isaiah Smith was surprised that they beat Billings by such a wide margin.
“It’s hard to believe because Billings is so good,” said Isaiah Smith. “Our team chemistry is doing well right now. We only had four players on the bench but we have a good rotation going and everybody’s doing their part, learning their role. Our team is starting to come together and playing for each other and not for themselves. Being ranked second in the state puts a target on our back, every game we can’t take lightly because we know we are going to get a team’s best. Once we bring it and show our mentality, we’ll be hard to beat.”
Isaiah Smith, son of Coach Smith, was named MVP of the tournament.
“He’s a great distributor of the ball,” said Coach Smith. “You better have your head on a swivel because it’s coming at you. You might get that extra two points for yourself. Our boys learn that you’d better have your head up because he’ll pass it to you. Sometimes it is tough to be a coach’s kid, but he takes it in stride. He has a good knowledge of the game and I’m just lucky enough to coach him and be a part of his journey.”
Billings—Jacob Henry-2, Nick Newkirk-6, Colton Plowman-6, Tryton Davis-2, Kyler Tennis-6, Julian Moody-5, Hayden Fender-10
Crane—Aric Spyres-8, Isaiah Smith-19, Brecken Vaught-9, Taylor Calzaretta-16, Aidan Vaught-2, Zander Mayne-11, Sam Woodward-3, Seth Steele-14
Billings 7 14 10 6 37
Crane 22 32 21 7 82