The Houlka Wildcats game with the Bruce Trojans in the Calhoun/Chickasaw Challenge went to the wire and proved exiciting, although it was not exactly what coach Jimmy Guy McDonald would have preferred.
“When you have that many turnovers and missed shots, it’s close,” McDonald said of his team, but added the Trojans had their share of miscues as well. “They struggled, like us, with missing easy shots.”
The Wildcats took a 30-23 lead into halftime but saw it slip away quickly as Bruce’s Justin Flemons sank one from the charity stripe and Donate Moore snagged a steal and dished to Donta Armstrong for a bucket. Houlka’s Titus White hit a trey to keep the Wildcats ahead but Flemons matched it and the Trojan’s Jay Johnson and Armstrong both hit to tie the score at 33-all. Bruce’s Malik Hobson’s steal to the goal put the Trojans ahead and the battle was on.
Houlka’s White got a bucket and Larry Jones added a free throw and deuce to put the Wildcats back in the lead, but Armstrong tied it again late in the third. Houlka’s Lewis Moore dished to James Buggs for a deuce to put the Wildcats up 42-41 at the close of the period.
In the fourth, both teams upped the tempo, also increasing the number of turnovers, and ran even through the quarter. In the final minute of play, the Wildcats held a two-point lead, but turned the ball over twice and Bruce’s Armstrong capitalized once to tie it at 55-55. Houlka’s Craig Peden hit a jumper with 12 seconds on the clock to take a Wildcat lead and Bruce’s Johnson threw long to Armstrong in the final second, but the shot didn’t fall and the Houlka boys took a 57-55 win.
Coming off the Christmas break, the Challenge was a good way for local teams to get their feet back on the court, but the division-heavy portion of the season is coming quick and McDonald wants his team to be ready.
“Our boys have played better when they played a set-up, this group has,” McDonald said, adding that there are a lot of positives already on the court. “Our defense is set up better. We’re not letting in the outside shots and inside drives. We’ll have to play a little better together and cover our bases more.”
Lady Cats snap streak
The Lady Wildcats have battled this season, but put their first win on the schedule against the Lady Trojans of Bruce.
“It felt great,” said Shaliece Hamilton of the 48-33 win over Bruce.
“We’ve got more hope now,” added senior Saydee Moss. “Coach was proud of us.”
And coach agreed.
“I am proud of the girls for breaking the ice with a win,” McDonald said. “We won without some of our better scorers.”
Kyanna Hollin led with 13 and Jamesha Word added 12 and McDonald is hoping for a brighter second season, including hopefully the return of senior Jesse Moore who went out earlier in the fall with a broken arm.