Friday, February 17, 2012

SPORTS >> Badgers bust Mustang zero

Leader sports writer

Forrest City’s quest to finish its 5A East Conference run unbeaten hit a snag on Tuesday as Beebe out-dueled the league-leading Mustangs in a 64-49 upset at Badger Sports Arena.

The Mustangs (15-8, 10-1) got off to a slow start and could never catch up as the Badgers (17-6, 8-3) played keep away from their visitors for most of the fourth quarter after building a 45-36 lead through three periods.

Shot selection also played a big hand, as Beebe went 20 of 40 from the floor for an even 50 percent while Forrest City was 17 of 50 for 34 percent.

“To knock off the number one team I think, was kind of a statement to everybody coming in that we can play with the best,” Beebe coach Ryan Marshall said. “It was good to see us finish one off like a good basketball club. Going 23 of 28 from the free-throw line, taking care of the ball for the most part, it was a war inside.”

Senior forward Jordan Chatter led the Mustangs with 14 points, but found himself bogged down much of the night with heavy pressure from Beebe’s defense. Senior guard Martin Clanton added 12 points for Forrest City while post player Trey Thompson finished with 10 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.

For Beebe, Dayton Scott led with 18 points and eight rebounds, and proved to be the toughest Badger for the visitors to defend inside. Senior Zach May added 13 points for the Badgers while reserve post Zach Baker added 10 points.

“I just think the deal was they executed so well,” Forrest City coach Dwight Lofton said. “Whatever we threw at them, they had a game plan for it. We had an opportunity at the start of the second half, and we just had some possessions that I wish we could have back. You know, you grow and you learn, and you move on.”

The Mustangs started the second half with a press defense that slowed Beebe down, but they could not find their touch on the offensive end. It took a pair of put backs from Thompson to cut a 34-23 halftime deficit down to 34-27 by the 6:32 mark of the third quarter.

Brandon Fuller got the Badgers going with a lay-up off a defensive rebound and cross-court trip to make it 36-27 with 4:09 remaining in the third, and a pair of free throws by sophomore guard Tanner Chapman gave the Badgers a 38-28 lead with 3:31 left to play in the third.

Chapman hurt the Mustangs in the fourth quarter with a strong performance at the free-throw line as he went 7 of 8 from the line in during the final eight minutes.

As a team, Beebe went 23 of 28 from the stripe for their best percentage all season.

The Badgers’ 50 percent effort from the floor was aided by the fact that they took only four shots in the fourth quarter and made three of them, instead relying on the ball-handling skills of Fuller and Chapman to take time off the clock.

“We just thought we were in a tough situation,” Forrest City coach Dwight Lofton said. “We couldn’t step up and make free throws, and every bounce went their way. They played extremely well. They’ve had this one circled ever since the last time we played them.”

The Badgers started the game on a 15-2 run that included a pair of dunks by Scott as part of his nine first-quarter points. Chatter got some of that back for the Mustangs with a 15-footer that made it 15-7 with 1:55 remaining in the first, and a hook shot just before the buzzer to close the gap to 17-9.

“We talked about that,” Marshall said. “I’ve seen them play about six or seven times, and when they’re up, Forrest City is about as good as there is. But when they have to play from behind, they kind of get out of what they want to do. I thought that was huge, particularly in the second half. I thought that if we could keep that going into the fourth, I felt pretty good about things.”

Beebe’s lead went as high as 26-13 in the second quarter, but a three pointer by Joe Tripp at the 1:28 mark and another buzzer beater, this time by Meishio Harris, set the halftime margin at 34-23.

The loss was the first blemish on Forrest City’s East record, but with three games remaining and the Mustangs still holding a two-game lead over Beebe, Friday night’s home game against Blytheville could be the clincher.

“We still have a two-game lead,” Lofton said. “We have an opportunity on Friday to go ahead and clinch, but we really wanted to come in here and win it on the road. We just have to move on. It’s a long season, we’re 10-1, and a lot of people would love to trade with us right now.”

Beebe played at Nettleton last night and will play at Wynne on Tuesday before wrapping up their East schedule at home for senior night against Paragould on Thursday.