Often times the coach for the school that is hosting a tournament will pit his team against some of the weaker teams in order to put the odds in his favor that the home fans will get to witness a victory.
When Saline head coach Klint Robinson drew the brackets up of the 2023 Saline Invitational that was played Thursday thru Saturday night, he went against conventional wisdom.
Instead of scheduling cupcakes, Robinson pitted his squad against a Class 3A school, a perineal Class B power and a Class 2A school over three straight nights. His Class C Bobcats whipped them all. Not only did they win they did so in a variety of fashions that lends credence that Saline, now 7-3 on the season after winning their last six, has the potential to make some serious noise in Division V.
Saline opened the tourney by dispatching Class 3A D’Arbonne Woods by a 62-43 margin on Thursday. They followed that up by beating Class B Simsboro 70-64 on Friday and then completed the tri-fecta by limiting Class 2A Jonesboro-Hodge to just seven field goals in the final three quarters in the impressive 43-28 victory.
Quitman High School also looked good against stiff competition to run their season record to 7-2. The Wolverines were tied with defending Division IV quarterfinalist Lakeview toward the end of the third quarter before falling 70-53 but came back to beat Class 5A West Ouachita 68-57.
In girls play, the Lady Bobcats (3-7) also played giant killer by opening the tourney with a 43-29 victory over D’Arbpnne Woods and then dispatched Class B Quitman 44-38 before falling to a scrappy Lakeview squad 44-32. The Lady Wolverines (4-5) would rally to gain a split of their two games despite being without their leading scorer and rebounder by beating Class 5A West Ouachita.
Saline 43 JHHS 28 (Saturday): The last game of the tournament was the first of the season for Jonesboro-Hodge who scored 10 points in the first quarter but managed only 18 the rest of the way. Freshman Eli Ferguson dominated the paint to equal the career best 23 points that he set the night before to lead the way for the Bobcats. JHHS, which was forced to bomb away from outside due to the smothering Saline zone defense, was led by Landon Boston and Dewayne Palmer with 7 points each.
Saline 70 Simsboro 64 (Friday): Down 60-58 with a little over five minutes remaining in the contest, Saline went on an 8-0 run to take command. The Bobcats beat Simsboro at their own running game to score 40 second half points. Trent Ledbetter scored all of his 13 points in the final two quarters and eighth grader Connor Roberts also came up big after the break with a career high 9 points. Eli Ferguson, also scored eight of his new career high 23 points in the final 16 minutes. Javon Dailey pitched in with 16 points and Maddox Williams finished with eight in the well rounded attack.
Saline 62 D’Arbonne Woods 43 (Thursday): It was a quick start that saw the Bobcats jump out to a 28 – 18 lead at the half and a season best quarter of scoring by Javon Dailey in the third that led to the rout. Eli Ferguson, who finished with 15 and Trent Ledbetter who pitched in 12, led Saline in the first half with 10 and 8 points respectively. Then Dailey took over by accounting for 12 of Salines 21 points in the third that helped blow the game open.
Quitman 68 West Ouachita 57 (Saturday): Eli Walker nailed five 3-pointers and scored 19 points to lead the hot shooting Wolverines. Gavin Caskey chipped in with 13 and Logan Ponder 10 as the Wolverines shot a better percentage from the field (58%) than they did from the line (54%).
Lakeview 70 Quitman 53 (Friday): Leading by a slim 45-44 margin, Lakeview went on an 11-0 run that led to a 23-9 final quarter advantage to pull away from the pesky Wolverines. Logan Ponder scored 9 of his team high 22 points in the first quarter to stake Quitman to a 20-12 lead after one period of play.
Lakeview 44 Saline 32 (Saturday): Alana Gray made a pair of three pointers to keep Saline close after the first period but a 14-4 advantage by Lakeview in the second proved to be the difference. Gary and her sister Alaya led the Lady Bobcats with 11 and seven points respectively.
Saline 44 Quitman 38 (Friday) Cali Deal scored 28 points and pulled down 15 rebounds for Quitman but Saline allowed only 10 points to the rest of the team as the Lady Bobcats hit 9 of 12 free throws down the stretch to secure the win. Alana Gray hit 10 of 12 free throws in the contest and scored a team high 16 points followed closely by Alaya Gray with 15. Kacidy Sims also came up big with 13 points.
Saline 43 D’Arbonne Woods 29 (Thursday): The Lady Bobcats exploded for 24 second quarter points to blow open a close game to win their second game after dropping six of their first seven of the year. Alana Gray scored 17 points to lead the charge. Kacidy Sims chipped in with 14 and Alaya Gray added ten points.