The Festus Tigers closed out their exciting and, at times, frustrating regular season this week with wins over Ste. Genevieve and Fox. The 69-66 thriller over the Dragons on Monday set the stage for a 60-40 trouncing of the Warriors the following day. The back-to-back wins in back-to-back days closed out standard play for the year, and has the Tigers sitting as the fifth seed in the Class 5 District 1 playoff tournament.
Festus played host in both games, and jumped out to a big early lead on Monday against Ste. Gen. A 22-18 first quarter set the stage, thanks to eight points apiece from Hayden Bates and Carter Roth, but the Tigers really blew it open in the second. They put up 24 more in the next frame and the defense stepped up to hold the Dragons to just nine. Arhmad Branch had 11 points in the quarter and helped the home team to a convincing 46-27 advantage at the half.
After the break, Ste. Gen came out charged up. They stole all of the momentum that the Tigers had accrued and poured in 21, while holding Festus to a mere six. That effort really turned the tide and made it just a four-point lead for the home team, setting up an intense fourth quarter.
The Dragons were on fire offensively and not slowing down. Thankfully the Tigers got their groove back, and found a new gear in the final frame. The two teams traded buckets back and forth, and Ste. Gen was able to tie it up at 66-all with the clock winding down. The Tigers raced down the court and got it to their best outside shooter, and with the buzzer sounding just after the ball left his hands, Roth buried a three for the 69-66 walk-off winner.
Talk about a clutch shot. It’s the kind of moment that has plagued the Tigers this season, so this had to be a refreshing turn of events to be on the other side of a buzzer-beater. Head Coach Jason Therrell gave some kudos to his downtown sniper, saying, “It was a great and well-deserved moment for one of the hardest working kids on our team.”
Roth hit three from beyond the arc in the game for 16 points, but none bigger than the game-winner. Bates was ferocious in this one, leading the team with 22 points on seven buckets and a three, while Branch was the other scorer in double-digits with his 15. He did most of the damage in his 11-point second quarter.
That dramatic win helped take some of the sting out of the brutal OT loss to South Iron in their last game, and the Tigers used it as fuel to light an offensive fire against Fox the next day. It made for a less intense atmosphere, but I don’t think you’ll hear the Tigers complaining.
Against the Warriors, the Tigers came out on top in the first after a pair of big threes from Roth helped them to a 13-10 first-quarter advantage. That advantage would grow in the next frame with two more threes from Roth and 15 more points for Festus. Fox managed just eight, and the home team once again had a nice lead at the half, 28-18.
This time the Tigers wouldn’t falter in the third though. They put up 16 more, with Branch contributing half of those, and kept the Warriors at arm’s length with a paltry seven. In the final eight minutes, enjoying a 44-25 lead, Festus was able to get some subs into the game to close it out. Despite giving the starters some rest, they still managed to outscore Fox 16-15 and secure the 60-40 victory.
The win was the 20th of the season for the Tigers, and was a nice milestone to reach considering all the adversity they have suffered this season in the heart-breaking loss category. Coach Therrell had this to say, “Against Fox we played well enough to maintain a sizable lead most of the game. We were able to play more kids and finish out the regular season with our 20th victory. A nice accomplishment for this team considering some of the really tough losses we have also absorbed.”
Branch led the way in this one with 23 points on eight buckets, a three and a perfect performance at the line (4-of-4). He was backed up by Roth, who hit five threes for 15 points, and has been a godsend from beyond the arc the last four games. (Well, all season really, but still.) Logan Cash made it to double-digits with 10 of his own and seven different Tigers scored in this one.
It’s always nice to end the regular season on a high note, and hopefully this pair of victories gives the Tigers a little extra confidence and motivation heading into the District Tournament. They will take on the fourth-seeded Windsor Owls in the first round on March 1st, and it will likely be a tight affair just like the other games involving these two foes this season.
Tipoff is at 5:30 pm. Good luck Tigers!