There’s a cliche in sports that claims it’s difficult to beat a good team three times in a season. That’s what the Festus varsity basketball team was facing entering the Class 4, District 2 basketball tournament at Farmington Saturday. Festus had defeated DeSoto two times during the regular season, and drew the Dragons in the district opener. In a closely contested game, the Tigers outlasted DeSoto 68-58 to advance to a semifinal game against Hillsboro on Tuesday.
In district play, to be successful, contributions have to come from as many players as possible. That’s exactly what happened for the Tigers. In a first quarter that saw both offenses clicking, Blake Holland (12) hit two three pointers to help Festus take a slim 18-16 lead after the first eight minutes.
Holland continued his hot shooting in the second quarter, adding another three and a field goal. Meanwhile, Brennan Pryor (12) had eight first half points. Unfortunately, DeSoto outscored Festus 15-12 to take a 31-30 lead at halftime.
But the Tigers kept within striking distance as the score see-sawed through the third quarter. Festus drained four three pointers in the quarter, three of them coming from Daniel Portell (12) and another from Holland. When the dust had settled, the Tigers had the slight edge at 47-46 heading into the final period.
And that is where Festus would win the game at the line. The Tigers would go to the free throw line 15 times in the quarter and would convert 13 times. More specifically, Housley nailed 11 of 13 free throws in the fourth to give the Tigers the ten point victory. For the game, Festus was 17-of-20 from the charity stripe.
Head coach Jason Therrell was proud of his team, especially his seniors. “We had a balanced attack, and my seniors really came through. Holland and Pryor had great games and were difference makers in the game. And you can’t say enough about Horsley’s free throw shooting that iced the game.” The victory gives the Tigers a 14-11 record this season.
Horsley led the Tigers with 19 points, but he had plenty of help. Holland had 16 points and four three pointers. Portell added 11 points with three three pointers. And Pryor gave the Tigers four players in double figures with 10 points. Savez Thomas (11) wasn’t far behind netting nine points. Zach Liles (11) and Collin Reando (9) rounded out the scoring with two points and one point respectively.
Now the Tigers’ next opponent faces the same situation the Tigers did against DeSoto. The Hillsboro Hawks have defeated Festus twice this season, and now will have to try to do it a third time on Tuesday. The Hawks and Tigers will meet at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at Farmington for the right to advance to the district title game on Friday.