Bobcats come back to nab 59-54 victory over rival Pine Tree
By George Whitley
Jan. 11, 2018 at 4 a.m.
LONGVIEW - Fans packed out old Pirate Gymnasium in sort of a toss-back Tuesday. The Pirates wanted to pay homage to former alumni with a game in the rustic auditorium.
First-year Pirate boss Jermaine Lewis felt like it a good opportunity to for his squad to play in the close confines and experience a real rowdy setting.
The longtime rival Hallsville Bobcats served as select opposition, giving the midseason league contest more of a postseason-type feel.
Hallsville, which trailed most of the night, rallied late to steal a 59-54 victory and improve to 2-1 overall in District 16-5A.
The Bobcats are now 14-11 overall heading into a Friday home game against Marshall.
The Pirates saw another winnable game slip from their grasp late. Pine Tree drops to 0-4 in league play and 7-11 overall has the rest of the week off before making a road trip to Marshall next Tuesday.
"This (the district race) is not a sprint, it's a marathon getting in. We're just trying to start a new one-game winning streak. And that's exactly what we'll be doing Friday," said an obviously relieved Bobcat coach Rusty Walker.
"I know it sounds silly, but it's a mindset for our guys. Anytime you get a road victory in our league it's big. We're just excited to get out of here with a win."
With the exception of five first half ties and one in the third, Hallsville found itself fighting an uphill battle much of the night.
Pine Tree sophomore J.J. Sparkman was a force inside finishing the game with 28 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks. The game plan was to feed the ball inside to Sparkman, who proved unstoppable at times, accounting for all 11 Pirate points in the third period.
Sparkman powered up a basket and drew the foul from Hallsville's Shadd Berg. The subsequent Sparkman free throw moved Pine Tree out to a 41-34 advantage with 6:40 to go in the third.
Pull-up pops from both Berg and Brenton Allen late pulled the Bobcats within 45-44 heading into the final eight minutes of regulation.
Ty Huff knocked down a couple freebies to start the fourth and give the Bobcats their first lead since they jumped out to a 10-3 first quarter advantage.
After Sparkman made good on the front end of a two-shot foul, the Pirates squared things at 48-all with 5:14 to play.
Jhalyn Nelson bombed in a corner trey near the halfway point of the fourth to give Pine Tree back the lead at 51-50.
Trey Pruitt was one of two at the stripe as the margin eased to a bucket with 3:48 to play. Back-to-back layups from Jeremy Swalley enabled Hallsville to retake the lead.
The Bobcats built upon their lead with free throws from both Berg and Kobe Hogan down the stretch.
Clinging to a three-point lead, the Bobcats held their collective breath when Nelson's baseline 3-pointer missed the mark with 16 ticks left.
Sparkman was also unable to connect on a jumper in the paint as the clock bleed out and the Bobcats slipped out with the win.
Berg led the Bobcats with 18 points and Swalley contributed 12 points.