By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The name on the front of the white uniforms read Choctaws.
In years past and earlier this season, that appeared to be good enough to defeat the Munford Cougars. But Friday night the Cougars came out with a new attitude to take on the Dyer County Choctaws in the District 13-3A Boys Basketball Tournament Semifinal. Munford shined on the Brighton Gymnasium court throughout the first half building a 34-26 lead at halftime over the No. 1 seeded Dyer County.
Then Dyer County turned up the pressure pressing the Cougars from base line to base line. The Choctaws erased the deficit to prevail 67-64 and advance to the title game Tuesday night at 7:30 agains the Brighton Cardinals. Meanwhile the Cougars had to settle for the consolation round Tuesday night against the Hardin County Tigers at 6 p.m.
The Cougars left the court dejected after coming up short against Dyer County.
“I just said to them I was proud of their effort,” Munford Head Coach Ryan Ross said. “The effort was there for 32 minutes. The execution was not. It was there for 16. That was the difference in the game that third quarter.
“We didn’t get to our spots in the press break,” he added. “That ended up killing us. It’s a small thing, a very small detail. But if you don’t do it, it will come back to bite you.”
At first the Cougars were taking big chunks out of the Choctaw defense behind the hot shooting of Montrel Miller. The Munford guard hit four three-pointer in the first quarter. Miller’s fourth triple made the score 17-11 in favor of the Cougars.
Later in the period the score was 19-17 in favor of Munford when Cougar Alex Hones hit a jumper. The Cougars led 21-19 heading into the second quarter. Munford outscored the Choctaws 13-7 in the second quarter. Cougar Queyon Mills hit a pair of free throws that made the score 25-20.
Cougar Patrick Smith hit a bucket in the post that made the score 29-22 over the Dyer County. With Munford ahead 31-26, Miller concluded the first half with is fifth trey to put the Cougars ahead 8 points.
The Choctaws made a few adjustments at halftime and came out with an 9-0 run in the first 3 minutes. Dyer County pressured Munford ball handlers from the inbound pass on made shots. The strategy helped the Choctaws go ahead 35-34.
Mills ended the Cougars drought with a free throw to tied the game at 35-35. The rest of the period was close with Munford holding a 49-47 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Dyer County outscored Munford 14-2 in the first 5 minutes of the final quarter to take a 61-51 lead. It appeared the game was over but the Cougars went on a 11-5 run to make the tally 66-62 in favor of Dyer County.
With less than 10 seconds on the clock, the Choctaws added a free throw. The final bucket belonged to Munford to make the final 67-64 in favor of Dyer County.
“Extremely proud of the effort,” Ross said. “I thought we really went at them the first 16 minutes. The first two times we played them, I’ll be honest, I thought we had a little fear. We were playing the Dyer County name. And tonight I don’t think we had that. We came out at them tonight. We’ve got to get to where we execute 32 minutes before Tuesday night and Region play.”
The Cougars will travel Saturday to kickoff the 2016 Region 7-3A Tournament.