Concord is headed back to the state finals. The top-ranked Pirates anchored a spot in Hot Springs – host of tonight's 1A state championship game at Summit Arena – with a resounding 50-32 victory over Scranton's Rockets on Tuesday at North Arkansas College.
Concord is headed back to the state finals. The top-ranked Pirates anchored a spot in Hot Springs – host of tonight’s 1A state championship game at Summit Arena – with a resounding 50-32 victory over Scranton’s Rockets on Tuesday at North Arkansas College.
The Pirates never trailed, streaking out to a 14-2 lead after one quarter of play and sailing from there on out. Concord led 26-16 at half and 37-23 heading into the fourth quarter.
“They’ve been here, they know what to expect and they know what is going on,” said Concord coach Keith Cornett. “There is not a situation that is too big for my seniors. It seems like once we get into these tournaments the longer we go the better we get.
“T.J. Richardson stepped up tremendously for me tonight as a sophomore. He was able to make some big shots and we had been struggling from the perimeter a little bit. When we are able to make shots from the perimeter we are tough. And we have good shooters,” added Cornett.
Concord, which accounted for both of Scranton’s losses this season, took the lead for good when point guard Jacob Roark picked off a pass and cruised in for a layup early in the first quarter.
Richardson followed with four in a row, first pulling down an offensive rebound and scoring on a blind reverse layup over two defenders. Richardson added another bucket off an assist from guard Luke Cornett, boosting the Pirates’ lead to 6-0.
The Rockets got on the scoreboard when forward Houston Koch sank a midrange jumper from right baseline, but Cornett countered with a three-pointer up top off an assist from Roark.
Richardson rattled off five more, turning an offensive rebound into a pair of free throws and drilling a three-pointer from left wing, extending the Pirates’ lead to 14-2 after one quarter of play.
Scranton opened the second quarter with a 9-3 surge, pulling within six on jumper by guard Seth Siebmorgen.
Concord responded with four straight as forward Ethan Hebert notched a rebound basket and Roark slashed down the right side of the lane, where he finished in heavy traffic.
After Scranton guard Conor Roby and Richardson swapped three-pointers, Roark canned two free throws, but forward Matt Willems scored inside with time winding down, cutting Concord’s lead to 10 at half.
Roark, who scored a total of 82 points in three state tournament games, opened the third quarter on fire, nailing two straight three-pointers plus a 19-foot jumper in which he split two defenders and pulled up from the top of the circle.
A little over a minute and a half into the third quarter the Rockets called timeout to regroup. Following the break in action, Scranton used an 8-0 run to climb back within striking distance.
Guard Cory White completed the Rockets’ run by converting a four-point play after ripping a three-pointer from left corner while drawing contact.
Concord forward Hanse Bowman fired back with a three-pointer from right wing off an assist from Roark, giving the Pirates a 37-23 lead entering the final eight minutes of play.
Scranton trimmed its deficit to 10 a little over midway through the fourth quarter when Roby popped a three-pointer from right wing, but the Pirates used their quickness and ball handling ability to milk the clock.
In the final three minutes, Roark made 4 of 5 free throws, while Bowman and Hebert each broke free for an uncontested layup in transition as Concord cruised down the stretch.
Roby scored 13 points to lead Scranton and Siebmorgen added six for the Rockets, who finished their season with a record of 38-2.
Roark pumped in a game-high 22 points for Concord, Richardson followed with 12, Hebert chipped in eight and Bowman had five.