Mat Jones helps lift Mountain Home boys past Van Buren in 5A-West conference tournament
Mountain Home had the only significant scoring run Monday night, and it made all the difference.
The Bombers used an 11-point swing in the third quarter and held on for a 64-53 win at Van Buren in the second round of the 5A-West conference tournament at Clair Bates Arena.
With the win, Mountain Home (8-12) advances to the tournament semifinals and earns a berth in the Class 5A state tournament at Hot Springs next week.
The resurgent Bombers were bolstered by the return of 6-foot-6, 265-pound three-year starter Mat Jones, who was playing just his third game of the semester after an ATV accident in December.
Monday, Jones had 23 points and seven rebounds. He averaged 15 points and eight rebounds last year, and 10 points and seven rebounds as a sophomore.
Mountain Home won just three of nine conference games and was the sixth seed without Jones but received a reprieve with a conference tournament due to the missed games because of COVID-19, and the snow storm two weeks ago that wiped out a week of games.
Jones was 7-of-12 shooting on Friday, and was 9 of 12 from the free-throw line. He had two baskets in the key run in the third quarter, as well.
“We were able to string some stops together,” Mountain Home coach Josh Fulcher said. “We got some good looks and hit a couple of things in transition. We got the ball where it needed to go. That was big.”
Wyatt Gilbert, who scored 16 points, started the run with a 3-pointer and added two more baskets in the run.
The two teams split the regular season matchups, with each winning on their home floor. The Pointers (13-9) won the most recent matchup 59-47.
“We came over here a little over a week ago,” Fulcher said. “We knew there might be a chance that we’d get to play Van Buren in the second round. We wanted to come back here.”
Avery Salisbury, Jose Estrada and Brandon Miller all hit 3-pointers for Van Buren in the fourth quarter when the Pointers scored 24 points, but Mountain Home answered with 14 points from the free-throw line in the final four minutes.
“We tried to switch up defenses and couldn’t cool them down,” Van Buren coach Brad Autry said. “We tried to slow down (Jones and Gilbert). We rushed some shots. They had a good game plan.”
Salisbury finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and four steals.Estrada added 12 points, and Miller and Trevor Day each scored nine.