CAMPBELL, Mo. - The Bernie Mules varsity boys basketball team remains in contention for its fifth opening-season tournament championship in the last six seasons.
Top-seeded Bernie defeated fourth-seeded Twin Rivers 74-63 Thursday night in a championship semifinal game of the eight-team Campbell Invitational Tournament.
"We grinded out a win," Bernie coach Brad Botsch said. "This was a very physical game that may not have been pretty, but we found a way to get the job done. Twin Rivers played very hard and Coach Benson does a nice job with his kids. I thought we were on our heels defensively all night, and we'll have to play much better if we want to beat a very good Holcomb club [Friday]."
David Baker paced Bernie with 22 points. He was 10 of 13 from the free throw line.
Troy Kirkpatrick knocked down a team-high three 3-pointers for the Mules and finished with 15 points. Bubby Schwent added 12 points for Bernie.
Twin Rivers was led in scoring by Eric Ray who tallied 21 points. Michael Snider scored 18 points for Twin Rivers and Blake Moore added 10 more.
Twin Rivers will play Risco Friday at 7 p.m. for third-place. Bernie (2-0) will take on Holcomb (2-0) Friday at 8:30 p.m. in the championship.
Holcomb defeats defending champs
CAMPBELL, Mo. - The Holcomb Hornets advanced to the championship of the Campbell Invitational varsity boys basketball tournament for a second straight season Thursday night with a 70-46 win against the defending champion Risco Tigers.
The second-seeded Hornets outscored the third-seeded Tigers by single digits in every quarter of the championship semifinal.
"We played well tonight," Holcomb coach Seth McBroom said. "They had one of their big guys hurt and we kind of took advantage of our size. When we moved the ball decent we played well."
Risco trailed by just five points with 6:07 remaining in the first half before Holcomb went on a 13-0 run to increase its lead to 32-14 with 2:52 left in the second period.
"They are a big, well-coached, talented team," Risco coach Brandon Blankenship said of Holcomb. "We pretty much got it handed to us by a team that is better than us right now."
Holcomb led 36-20 at halftime. Risco never cut the deficit to single digits in the second half.
"We had to set some key guys down in the second quarter," Blankenship said. "We were in foul trouble and kind of lost some momentum and had odd lineups out on the court with our injury. We had to go deeper than what we would normally go early in the game."
Risco, which beat Holcomb 74-64 in the championship of the opening-season tournament last season, lost one of its key contributors 24 hours before the start of Thursday's game. Tigers' center Hunter Knight suffered an ankle injury in the final practice before the Risco-Holcomb game.
"This is his third season as a starter," Blankenship said of Knight. "He's a key piece. He's only 5'11, but he's our size inside. He's a huge key for us defensively."
Knight had also been a key contributor offensively before his injury. He was one of four players to calculate a double-digit scoring total in Risco's 81-68 quarterfinal win against sixth-seeded Bloomfield at the tournament Tuesday night.
"It happen Wednesday in the last five minutes of practice," Blankenship said of the center's injury. "He scored 13 points Tuesday night and rolled an ankle pretty bad on our last drill Wednesday. Hopefully, we'll have him back for our home opener Tuesday night."
Holcomb, which has four players at least 6'3 on its roster, calculated 23 two-point field goals and four 3-pointers against Risco. Senior center Jamie Massey calculated a team-high 24 points for the Hornets. Senior forward James Vance added 11 points and senior Chase Davis recorded 10 points for Holcomb.
"I thought it was fairly balanced tonight and that's what we need all year," McBroom said of his offense. "It's nice when you have balanced scoring so they don't key on one or two scorers."
Brandon Bixler led the Tigers in scoring with 12 points. Caleb McCord, who finished with 10 points, was the only other Tiger to reach double digits.
"Very early we didn't make good decisions," Blankenship said. "We had a number of careless turnovers I felt like. They spread out in a 1-3-1 and we didn't do a very good job getting in the gaps. We wanted to just pass the ball around it. In the second half we finally cut into their press a little better, but we didn't finish after we got past it. We missed the decent looks we had."
Holcomb faced Risco three times last season. Risco beat Holcomb in the championship of the opening-season tournament last year. Holcomb won the regular-season contest against Risco and beat the Tigers in the Tri-County Conference Tournament title game.
"We did what we thought the game called for and what we thought we could do well," McBroom said. "They are a dangerous team. You can never let up because they can throw 10 points on you in less than a minute."
Risco will play Twin Rivers in the third-place game Friday at 7 p.m.
"Another big, tough, strong, physical team that is well-coached," Blankenship said of Twin Rivers. "It's going to be a tall order. I've seen them play both games over here and I think they look good. We'll have to regroup and be ready to battle."
Holcomb will take on Bernie in the championship Friday at 8:30 p.m. Bernie won the tournament four straight seasons before Risco halted the streak when it beat Holcomb in the finals last year.
Holcomb and Bernie squared off four times in the 2011-12 varsity basketball season. Holcomb won the first and last meeting against Bernie. Bernie won Round 2 and Round 3.
"It's always nice to play for a championship," McBroom said. "Bernie is going to be ready. There is no doubt. They are too well-coached not to be ready. Hopefully, we are ready and it will be a good game."