By Chuck Livingston
The Evening Times Sports Editor
MSCC Sports Information
For a fan of good defense, that was there in spades.
If you like long-distance marksmanship, you can check that off, as well.
If you like drama, the game between North Arkansas and MSCC featured 3 technical fouls, two ejections and countless lead changes.
When the dust had settled, the Greyhounds improved to 17-8 overall with a 67-56 win against North Arkansas. The win ensures that the Region 2 title game will be held at The Dog House on February 28.
MSCC led 28-18 at halftime, but North Arkansas led by as many as five points in the second half (53-48) before the Greyhounds continued to attack the basket offensively and took the lead back, finishing the game on a 19-3 run to clinch what is one of MSCC's biggest regular season wins in its history.
The Greyhounds were led by Tasmania Jones' 16 points and 16 rebounds. Fort Smith native Joe Dye added 14 points and 8 rebounds. Tony White scored 11 points and handed out 2 assists and Shaquille Culbreath scored 10 points and pulled down 5 rebounds.
North Arkansas got 15 points from Mark Gathright, a mark that included 13 points in the second half. Tyler Bussell added 12 points and leading-scorer Justin Malott was held to just six points.
After hitting 7 first-half 3-pointers in the teams' first meeting in January, North Arkansas was just 1 of 13 from that range in the game's first half. The Pioneers heated up to 5 of 17 in the second half, but also lost 10 turnovers in the game's final 20 minutes.
"I thought it was an incredible job by our guys. It was a win based on their toughness and unwillingness to give up and I thought that we did a really great job," MSCC head coach Chris Parker said after the contest. "For us to give up the lead that we did and then to have the toughness to battle back and regain the lead was as good of a win that I think we've had."
That MSCC lead actually rested at 15-2 through the game's first 7 minutes as part of a North Arkansas 7 of 33 shooting performance in the first half.
MSCC also forced 9 turnovers as Jones and Justin Harris scored 6 points apiece in the first 20 minutes to keep the Greyhound offense afloat.
North Arkansas scored the final 5 points of the first half to get within 10 points at halftime, before charging out of the gates in the second half.
The Pioneers took its first lead of the day on a Brandon Hampton hook shot and suddenly North Arkansas led 40-39 with 10:58 left in regulation. Then a Tyler Bussell 3-point basket gave North Arkansas its largest lead at 53-48 with a shade over five minutes remaining.
"We knew that they were going to make a run because they're such a well-coached team," Parker said of North Arkansas. "They've got guys who aren't going to quit either. I can't say enough about them and the job that they've done. I know it's gonna be another war on the 28th."
From there, MSCC tightened up defensively and took care of business from the free throw line. The Greyhounds continued to attack the basket and hit 12 of their 18 free throws after falling behind 53-48 to clinch the win.
MSCC is scheduled to host Rhodes College JV Monday at 6 p.m., but inclement weather projected for the area may postpone the matchup. Check back at MSCCgreyhounds.com for the latest information.