By Stephen Buus (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Cedar County bragging rights are always at stake when Stockton and El Dorado Springs tangle. On Saturday, a big trophy was on the line as well in the form of the championship of the 52nd annual Stockton Invitational. The host Tigers edged the Bulldogs 49-44 in a hard-fought contest.
El Do led 13-7 after one quarter, but Stockton looked to its one-two punch of senior Layne Colvin and junior Jay Baxter, who combined for 12 of Stockton’s 15 second-quarter points to take a 22-19 advantage at the half.
The Bulldogs stayed close for awhile behind the likes of junior Landon Murry, who had 19 points to lead all comers, and senior Kuliath Kephart who added 11.
“It was a super-competitive game, you can always expect it to be competitive,” Bulldog coach Nick Engleman said of the rivalry. “It doesn’t matter where the teams are skill- and talent-wise, it’s always going to be competitive. Fact is, we have two really talented teams playing against each other. We’ve got to use this as motivation to build on what we’re doing.”
A key moment came midway through the fourth quarter. With the Tigers up by 8 points and neither team scoring for over four minutes, Stockton coach Michael Draper decided to freeze the basketball to force El Do to come out and foul.
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“Our guys have done a good job so far of taking care of the ball in those situations,” Draper said. “We got to the line and made our free throws. Our kids just did a good job.”
The strategy worked as junior Braden Postlewait’s two free throws at 2:06 ended the scoring drought and put Stockton up 42-32. From there, the Tigers would tack on seven more free throws to hold off a late El Do comeback bid and win their first home title since 2018.
“Just to win our tournament is a big deal,” Draper said. “I’m happy for our guys and they’ll get to enjoy that. They’re doing a good job of keeping poised and just staying calm in pressure situations.”
“I felt we got a little rushed, we played a little outside of ourselves,” Engleman said of the Bulldogs. “We were breaking their press but then we were shooting quick.”
Colvin led the Tigers with 14 points. Baxter, who canned a buzzer-beater the previous night against Mt. Vernon just to get Stockton to the final, added 11 points as did Postlewait.
El Dorado 13 6 13 12—44
Stockton 7 15 18 9—49
El Dorado: Landon Murry 19, Kuliath Kephart 11, Kade Fast 8, Kaden Burley 6.
Stockton: Layne Colvin 14, Jay Baxter 11, Braden Postlewait 11, Colby Adams 7, Brandon Sullivan 3, Preston Rains 1.
Other scores: Third place, Mt. Vernon 60, Weaubleau 50. Consolation, Lamar 45, Lockwood 27. Sportsmanship award, Weaubleau.