TOM BEAN — When the Tomcats took 10 days off before starting district play, it allowed them to regroup from a rough start to the year.
Now as Tom Bean closes in on a seventh straight playoff appearance, it is hoping things continue to click with the end of the regular season approaching.
“They’re just resilient,” Tom Bean head coach Wes Chapman said. “We knew we played a tough schedule and a lot of the guys were new to the varsity.”
The Tomcats started the second half of district play trending in that direction as Tom Bean defeated Collinsville, 53-40, in 12-2A action.
Bryce Clark made six three-pointers to finish with 18 points, Ryan Weems added 15 points and 13 rebounds and Zach Lusk finished with nine points and 12 rebounds for Tom Bean (8-17, 4-2), which gained sole possession of second place as it prepares to host Valley View, which is tied with Tioga for third place, on Friday night.
The Tomcats continue to have their sights on first place but Lindsay has opened up a two-game lead with four to play, including the rematch with Tom Bean.
“We’re still eyeing the district championship. We’re hoping someone else can knock off Lindsay and we know we can play with them after losing in overtime,” Chapman said. “We’ve continued to get better, not just from the beginning of the year but in district.”
Luis Hernandez scored 11 points, Grayson Ward added seven points and Colby Shull and Thomas Mendell each chipped in six points for Collinsville (7-13, 2-4), which is in fifth place going into its home game against Tioga on Friday. The Pirates are a game back of the Bulldogs and Valley View.
Tom Bean started the fourth with a 13-point lead and it looked like it would need every one of those points, even after Clark’s three put the Tomcats up by 14 with seven minutes left.
Collinsville scored the next six points on baskets from Ward, Nathan Bocanegra and Hernandez as the Pirates were within eight and still had 4:46 to get closer.
But Tom Bean stepped up its defense, holding Collinsville scoreless the rest of the way, and a final three from Clark stretched the lead back to double-digits with 2:42 remaining. Both teams each managed just eight points in the fourth.
“We’ve had to find ways to get second chance shots,” Chapman said. “We’ve done stuff in practice, worked on things to get us easier shots.”
A late surge to the third quarter allowed Tom Bean to have some breathing room. Back-to-back layins from Shull got Collinsville within seven points — after trailing by 13 at one point — and just over a minute to go the frame.
Tom Bean’s advantage on the boards paid off when Zach Adcock one-handed a rebound to Weeks for a basket underneath and he converted the three-point play.
Clark had a three-pointer from the left corner with 26 seconds to go and that led to a 45-32 advantage heading into the final eight minutes.
“It’s been tough for teams to play zone defense on us, with Weems’ ability to penetrate and then you’ve got guys like Bryce in the corner,” Chapman said. “He’s accepted his new role and he’s believing in himself.”
The Tomcats were able to hold the Pirates at arm’s length in the second quarter. Collinsville trimmed its deficit to single digits a couple of times on buckets by Hernandez and Jace Crisp but Lusk had an answer the first time and a three-pointer by Clark allowed the home team to take a 29-19 lead into the locker room.
Tom Bean led right from the start as it opened the game with seven straight points, five of them by Lusk, in the opening two and a half minutes. Shull got Collinsville on the board a minute later but his bucket was the only scoring by the Pirates in the frame.
Clark hit his first three and the Tomcats were on their way to an 11-2 advantage by the end of the quarter.