By Will Johnson
CENTERVILLE – The Slocum Mustangs used a strong first half to gallop out to an eight point lead and then closed out the Area Championship game with a 24 point fourth quarter to hold off the Coolidge Yellow Jackets by a score of 71-62 and advance to the Regional Quarterfinals.
Once the game got underway, the two teams appeared to be evenly matched as both scored 11 first quarter points. The Mustangs were led by Taylor Hunt with eight points and Jacob Lane with three.
The Yellow Jackets fell behind early but closed out the quarter with a 7-0 run to knot t
In the second period, however, Slocum opened up an eight point lead as Travis Neal knocked down two 3-pointers for six points, while Lane had five and Alex Maldonado drained a three of his own. Tate Cleveland and Keet Cockerham both dropped in two as Lane converted one of two from the charity stripe to give the Mustangs a 30-22 lead at halftime.
The Coolidge second quarter points came from Brown with eight and three from Hoover.
After the break, the Yellow Jackets closed the gap to four as Coolidge found players other than Brown and Hoover to put the ball through the hoop. Brown still scored six and Hoover converted a pair of free throws but the first half scoring duo was joined by Roman Benjamin and Miguel Santa Cruz with four apiece. Emmanuel Rivera hit a 3-pointer and Juan Acevedo added two to round out the third quarter Coolidge point production.
Slocum didn’t just roll over during the Yellow Jackets’ comeback attempt. Hunt and Lane both went for five while Cockerham had four and Maldonado hit his second three of the game to make the score 47-43 with eight minutes remaining in the contest.
As the fourth quarter got underway, the two teams appeared to be seeing who would blink first. When it turned out to be the Yellow Jackets, the Mustangs seized the moment and galloped out to a 24 point fourth quarter.
The Yellow Jackets tried to hang with the Mustangs but were unable to keep up. Brown did his part and scored 10 fourth quarter points while Acevedo and Benjamin both dropped in four. Hoover converted one of two from the line but it wasn’t enough as the Mustangs held off Coolidge for the 71-62 win.
The Mustangs were led in the fourth quarter by Travis Neal with eight points. Both Cockerham and Maldonado dropped in seven while Randy Guess closed out the scoring for Slocum with two.
On the game, the Yellow Jackets were led by Jordan Brown with 29 points and Torrey Hoover with 12. Roman Benjamin had eight, Juan Acevedo netted six, Miguel Santa Cruz added four and Emmanuel Rivera chipped in three.
The Mustangs were led by five players in double figures. Taylor Hunt and Travis Neal led the way with 14 apiece. Keet Cockerham, Jacob Lane and Alex Maldonado all dropped in 13 as Tate Cleveland and Randy Guess closed out the Slocum point production with two each.
The win moves the Mustangs into the Regional Quarterfinals where they will face the winner of the Wells vs. Jonesboro game. As of press time, the Mustangs’ opponent, date, place and time were unavailable.
PHOTOS BY STEPHANIE LIMERICK
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org