Hebron Christian came into the district 3-A tournament after a full week off from competition on the court. After accumulating a 7-1 record in district, the Eagles had earned the second seed for the district tournament and headed into Mathiston with a three-game varsity winning streak.
The second-seed matched Hebron with third-seed Calhoun Academy in the opening round Friday night. The Eagles had dominated the Cougars during the regular season picking up two wins over Calhoun in region play.
Hebron started the opening minutes of the contest with a 6-0 run catalyzing the Eagle offense. After the early run, Hebron never relinquished the lead for the rest of the game. The Eagles closed out the first quarter with a buzzer beating shot and built a sizable 17-8 lead over the Cougars. The second quarter gave continued success to Hebron as the Eagles were on cruise control over Calhoun. Defensive steals from Hayden Carty and Collin Moore helped Hebron hold strong and to extend the already sizable gap to 34-19 by the halftime interval.
In the second half, the Cougars began to try and get back into the game during the third quarter as the Eagles play started to get sloppy resulting in a handful of turnovers. Even with the push during the third period, Calhoun still trailed in double-digits. In the finale, the Eagles were able to put away the Cougars, pulling away for good. At the final buzzer, Hebron had defeated Calhoun 61-49 and clinched a championship Saturday berth.
“It was sort of an ugly win, but we will take it,” said head coach Gary Vaughn about the 61-49 win over Calhoun Friday, “we will just have to have more efficiency tomorrow night, the energy was there, but need more efficiency.”
The win over Calhoun allowed for the Eagles to look forward to matching up with the number-one seeded Winona Christian Stars. In the most recent meeting, Winona were able to use “home-court” advantage and got revenge to take away a 54-44 and take the top spot in region 3-A.
Opening the tournament final, it just seemed like Winona’s night as the Stars hit two back-to-back three-pointers to create a 6-0 gap between them and Hebron. After Winona’s 6-0 run, the Eagles were able to keep the game within 6 points, but the Stars closed out the first period with two more three-pointers and a 21-14 lead. Hebron and Winona exchanged baskets throughout the second quarter, but the Stars were still able to extend their lead by the close of the first half 36-25.
In the second half, Winona was able to hold back the charging Eagles and keep the double-digit lead to defeat the 65-44.
“It is just very disappointing loss, they [Winona] was just as hot as they could have been,” said Vaughn about the championship loss to Winona, “we could never get any momentum going for the rest of the game.”
Hebron had great efforts all around offensively during the win over Calhoun. Hayden Carty led the way for the Eagles with 18 points, James Allen Moore scored 15 points, and Will Corben Rogers put in 14 points to round out the double digit scoring for the Eagles. In the loss against Winona, the Eagles were led once more by Carty who knocked down 18 points again. Rogers also reached double figures during the Winona game putting in 12 points on Saturday night.
The Eagles now will head into the North Central Tournament, the next step in making the MAIS single-A State Tournament, as the number two-seed out of district 3-A. Hebron has drawn a tough match-up with Central Holmes Christian School, the third-seed from district 4-A. The Eagles and Central Holmes overall records match-up well and down to the wire battle between the two ball clubs. Game time is set for today at 5:15 p.m. at Calhoun Academy