Tom Bean can't keep up with Bland
TOM BEAN — As the latter stages of the season take shape, the Tomcats still seek consistency. They are hanging around .500, both overall and in district play, but still searching to put it together as they chase an eighth straight playoff appearance.
“Guys are playing roles maybe they didn’t expect at the beginning of the season,” Tom Bean head coach Wes Chapman said. “You see our scores and they’re up-and-down, up-and-down.”
The latest outing didn’t have many high points as Bland defeated the Tomcats, 52-28, in 14-2A action but no one has had much luck against the first-place Tigers so far in district — four of the five wins are by at least 12 points.
C.J. Richter had eight points, Caleb Higgs and Lance Pauler added six points and Branson Ashlock chipped in five points for Tom Bean (7-6, 2-3), which plays at Wolfe City on Tuesday night.
Wyatt Wigington scored 18 points while Taylor Hervey and Gabriel Butler finished with 11 points apiece for Bland (11-5, 5-0).
The Tigers remained tied with Celeste heading into their matchup on Tuesday for sole possession of first place. But the scramble behind them is just as interesting with the first half of district play about to end.
Tom Bean dropped from third to fourth place with the loss but the Tomcats are closely surrounded — they head to Wolfe City with the Wolves in front of them by a game and Honey Grove, whom they play on Friday, is just a game behind. Plus Trenton is also a game back in the loss column and has a victory over Tom Bean.
The big concern for the Tomcats coming in was how to handle Butler, the six-foot-eight senior post.
“I thought my two bigs — Branson Ashlock and C.J. Richter — for freshmen did a pretty good job on him,” Chapman said. “They’ve got three shooters around him and they shoot it well so you can’t just pack it in. You’ve got to live and die by that and they made their shots.”
Bland put the game out of reach at the start of the second half, turning a 16-point lead at the break into a 43-15 margin with just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
After Butler made a layup at the buzzer for a 48-17 advantage going to the fourth, Bland didn't have to sweat out the final eight minutes despite Tom Bean holding the Tigers to just four points in the frame.
The 22-7 scoring differential in the third marked the last of the first three quarters where Tom Bean was held to single digits before it produced 11 points in the fourth.
Pauler converted a three-point play and hit a three-pointer while Higgs had all of his points, including a three-point play to close out the scoring.
The Tomcats had a strong start to the second quarter when Bryce Clark nailed a three-pointer and Richter added a putback to trim the deficit to six points.
When Ashlock scored underneath with 2:47 left until half-time, Tom Bean was down just 18-10. But the Tomcats went scoreless the rest of the quarter and Nicolas Fernandez made a pair of threes, including at the buzzer for a 26-10 lead at the break.
Bland opened the contest with an 11-1 run as Tom Bean managed just a free throw from Pauler until Richter’s basket with 38 seconds to go in the first quarter.
Wigington drilled a three-pointer from the left wing at the buzzer to give the Tigers a 14-3 advantage.
“The turnovers in the first quarter got us down,” Chapman said. “Sometimes with a new group it can take a minute to get going and that really hurt us.”
Tom Bean 28