Braylon Parker might not be the biggest player on the basketball court. But the 5-foot-5 Alma guard had the biggest rebound in the Airedales’ 81-75 win against Gravette in Saturday in the semifinals of the First Community Bank of Crawford County Airedale Classic.
Parker’s rebound and Mason Wight’s coast-to-coast layup put the finishing touches on a win that nearly got away.
Alma (7-4) played a flawless third quarter and extended its lead to 23 points on Braxton Anderson’s 3-pointer.
But Gravette scored the final three points of the third, then scored the first 13 points in the final quarter to close to within five at 71-64. Terence Pierce keyed the comeback with several breakaway layups and long 3-pointers. He finished with 31 points and nine rebounds.
"When you’re playing teams that score like they can, you’ve got to finish there," Alma coach Stan Flenor said. "We were playing really well there at the end of the third quarter and we kind of got stagnant. We gave up some layups and gave them some life and some hope, and they took it and ran with it."
The Airedales, who face Farmington in Monday’s championship, led 23-20 after one quarter and shot lights-out in the second as well. Then in the third quarter, it looked like Alma was about to run away with the win. Jake Folkerts scored all 10 of his points in the third and the Airedales were 10-of-14 from the floor, including 4-of-6 from deep in the quarter.
But Alma went cold to start the fourth, missing its first nine shots and committing three turnovers.
Three straight buckets by Pierce cut Alma’s lead to 71-64. Junior Austin Lee ended the run with two free throws with 3:42 left to play, but Gravette wasn’t done.
A basket by Otto Troutner and Pierce’s final 3-pointer sliced the lead to 76-63 with 46 seconds left to play.
"We as coaches have to do a better job of having our guys prepared," Flenor said. "I was proud of them for making free throws, and we got a couple of stops as well. That’s the way basketball is sometimes."
Lee and Anderson finished with 26 and 19 points, respectively. Wight and Folkerts had 10 each.
Alma 44, West Fork 31
GIRLS — The Airedalettes have a nice winning streak brewing heading into 5A-West play.
Hailey Ostrander scored 15 points and Robin Stewart added 14 to power the Airedalettes past West Fork. Winners of five in a row, the Airedalettes face Greenland in Monday’s championship game.
"It was a little bit lower-scoring game than we’ve been having, but West Fork likes to slow it down and that makes a little bit of a difference," Alma coach Madelyn Flenor said. "I’ve been pleased with the way Hailey’s played, and we’ve had different kids on different nights step up."
Alma (6-3) jumped ahead, 8-2, but West Fork battled back to tie the game at 13 after one quarter. The Lady Tigers might have gone ahead had it not been for its poor free-throw shooting. West Fork was just 10-of-22 from the foul line.
Alma, meanwhile, extended its lead in the second half, with Ostrander popping a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter.
"It looked like early on everyone was going to have a big night," Flenor said. "(West Fork) slowed it down. I was pleased with our effort."