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Champs grind out win to advance in 9-AA

Posted on Monday, February 12, 2024 at 8:42 pm

Post Photo by Chris Siers Isaac McElroy draws heavy contact from Forrest as he tries to finish through contact. He finished with 20 points in Monday’s District 9-AA play-in game.

BELL BUCKLE — Tournament experience can’t be coached or taught—only experienced.
For the second-straight game against the Forrest Rockets, Cascade (11-15) found itself in an elimination game to advance in the District 9-AA tournament.
While nerves played a factor a times, Cascade overcame some offensive inconsistencies to eliminate Forrest from the postseason and keep its season alive with a 52-43 win over the Rockets (3-21) on Monday night.
“This group in particular has never been in this situation. They’ve never had to grind a win-or-go home game out to advance,” Champion coach Chris Lawson said.
“There was a little bit self-induced pressure and stress. They played through. By the end of the game, I felt like we did a better job of handling the ball, being strong with the ball and finishing at the foul line.”
It was a grind at times for the Champs, who found themselves down 13-7 after a slow first quarter.
By the second frame, Cascade began to right the ship and was able to draw several fouls and work its way to the line.
In the second, Cascade made good on 5-of-8 attempts and was able to close the gap.
But in the closing seconds, Forrest’s Ben Villazon hit the front end of a pair of free throws to leave the game tied at the half.
As a team, Cascade went for 15-of-26 attempts from the free throw line for the game, contrasted to the Rockets’ 5-of-8 attempts.
“It’s tough to overcome that. If you make half of those, it changes things quite a bit. I’m just proud of them. They just found a way to get it done,” Lawson said.
Through the first three minutes of the third quarter, Cascade took the lead over the Rockets three times, but saw Forrest answer and tie the game on each lead.
After a jumper by Isaac McElroy gave the Champs a 30-27 lead with 4:30 left, a key sequence gave Cascade a two-possession lead that Forrest never overcame.
Following a missed 3-pointer by the Rockets, Cascade worked the ball in transition and found an open Tucker McGee who drilled a trey of his own to give the Champs a six-point cushion.
Following another Rocket turnover, it was McElroy who drew a foul and went to the line for two free throws to bump the Champs’ lead to eight points.
Having built a bit of a lead, a lengthy scoring drought in the third put the game out of reach for the Rockets.
Forrest hit a 3-pointer at the 5:53 mark of the fourth to once again bring the score within six, but Cascade answered with a defensive effort that held the Rockets scoreless from the floor for the following 5:13.
“I’ve got to give Forrest a lot of credit. They’ve had a tough season, but you would never notice that seeing them tonight. They played extremely hard and were able to execute a game plan that gave themselves an opportunity,” Lawson said.
McElroy posted a game-high 20 points to lead all scorers, while McGee added 12.
Villazon led the Rockets wit 15.
Cascade’s reward for beating Forrest on Monday night is advancing to the tournament semifinal round to face No. 1 seed Cannon County on Wednesday.
“We didn’t do a bad job defensively, holding them (Forrest) to 43 points, but we struggled a little bit offensively. We have to correct a few things to get ready for Cannon County,” Lawson said.

Forrest 13 7 11 12 — 43
Cascade 7 13 17 15 — 52

Forrest: Ben Villazon 15, Tristan Goad 12, Bray McCown 6, Jimmy Bond 5, Kelley Tombs 3, Houston Matlock 2.
Cascade: Isaac McElroy 20, Tucker McGee 12, Saebyn Burris 8, Tyler Rodgers 4, Henry Stone 4, Zach Crosslin 2, Logan Pulley 2.
3-Point goals: Cascade (3): McGee 2, Stone; Forrest (6): Villazon 3, McCown, Bond, Tombs.
Halftime score: Cascade 20, Forrest 20.