The Mansfield Sr Tigers have faced plenty of adversity in their season and on more occasions than not have ended falling short. Seeded as the #5 in the 2A-4 District Tournament, the Tigers shocked #4 Magazine in overtime at Magazine on Monday, February 22 to advance to the semifinals. Some said it was lucky timing with a lucky shot for a team leaning on luck itself. It seems as if Mansfield took offense to the many thinking their win at Magazine was a fluke though and walked into Mountainburg with a master plan to silence all doubters in the semifinal round of tournament play. After a 59-45 dousing of the Dragons on their home court by the Tigers Thursday night, it’s evident that any stories of rabbit’s feet, horseshoes, and four-leaf clovers are just as fictional as luck itself.
The Tigers entered the Dragons lair with the knowledge that Mountainburg was the conference champions, the #1 seeded team in the tournament, and had beaten Mansfield in both previous meetings this season. A normal team would walk into hostile territory with serious mind games as to if they should even try to win or accept the inevitable loss before the game even starts. From the tip-off, Mansfield played solid defense, used smart passes, opened up clean shots, and worked as a solid unselfish unit. Mind games for Mansfield? I don’t think so, Jack. The Tigers’ feet were hot wherever they stepped on the hardwood fighting the Dragons fire with fire as they ended the first quarter with a 16-6 lead.
Going into the second quarter everyone could tell that Mountainburg was caught off guard and on their heels. With the Dragon’s fire doused down to sparks, Mansfield stepped up their game even more. Codi Chick, Ethan Pettus, and JoJo Bailey cut between the Dragons scales on multiple occasions which caused the frustrated Mountainburg team to make costly fouls. The fouls cost the Dragons, but only fed the Tigers. The fouls forced Mountainburg to back off and give space to the Tigers which Chick, Pettus, and Bailey took full advantage of and began to make it rain on the scoreboards. Mansfield rolled into the half with momentum on their side, a 28-14 lead on the scoreboard, and huge smiles on their faces.
Maintaining an early lead in the game was all it took for Mansfield to chop down Mountainburg’s high peaks of the matchup. The third quarter was evenly matched. Mansfield and Mountainburg both jumped in with both feet on offense and defense leading to the same 14 point score spread at the end of the third quarter as with the end of the second quarter with a 39-25 Tiger lead. For the remainder of the game, both teams played like their school colors. The Tigers were red hot while Mountainburg became bluer and bluer as the minutes wound down. If the Dragons closed the gap, Mansfield would come back in full force to regain what was lost. The Dragons are known for being automatic shooters, but the Tigers In Yo Face defense created too much chaos for their shooters. Missed shots by Mountainburg weren’t their only problem though. They couldn’t snatch enough rebounds because Tyler Escalante, Zayne Dugan, and Bri Sanderson held a monopoly on the backboards. Mansfield never ended a quarter without the lead and won the battle by 15 points with a 59-45 upset over the Dragons.
Flooding the points department for the Tigers was Codi Chick with 18, JoJo Bailey and Zayne Dugan with 11 each, Bri Sanderson with 8, Ethan Pettus with 7, and Tyler Escalante and Clint Stovall with 2 apiece. “I cannot put into words how proud I am of our Mansfield Tigers last night,” expressed Coach Keith Stovall. “Speaking for the boys, I’m not sure what I am the proudest of. Of course, the huge win but also of how they executed the game plan to near perfection. I always tell them that I want a loss to be my fault. I do want to apologize to the guys though for not doing the Coach Musselman and running into the locker room after the game without my shirt on. We still have some work to finish in the District Tournament which will take place at Acorn.” The Mansfield Tigers will face Acorn in the championship round of Districts at Acorn on Saturday after the girls game which starts at 6 pm.