EL DORADO — Tommy Williams scored 21 points — 17 coming in the first half — to help El Dorado defeat Union Mine 61-47 Monday night at the Snake Pit.
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Williams’ output came on a variety of drives, slashes, runners and pull-up jumpers. He had nine of the Cougars’ first 11 points and half of El Dorado’s 12-1 run to end the second quarter.
“There were a lot of lanes open, we moved the ball around and I was able to move without the ball,” Williams said. “This was a huge momentum boost for us, especially to our playoff chances. We’ll have to win out to have a shot.”
The Diamondbacks drew a good crowd hoping for a season split between the rival programs. Union Mine played El Dorado tough in the early going before the Cougars had their big push to close the first half.
“They were more physical, played harder, out-executed and out-coached us,” D’back coach Mike Verbitsky said. “They beat us in every facet of the game.”
Williams exploited the D’backs man defense in the opening quarter with hard drives to the hoop before Union Mine switched to a zone and battled back behind Scott McIntyre’s 3-point play, Alec Vaughn’s turnaround jumper, Austin Russell’s first of his three, three-pointers that tied the score and Vaughn’s two free throws for the lead.
Russell’s three midway into the second tied the game at 28-28 before Williams, Daniel Vance, Aaron Line, Matt Smith and Sean Gregg combined to put the visitors up 41-29 at the half.
“We just lost our focus, made some mistakes and they made a couple of good shots — I applaud them,” Union Mine guard Daniel Saich said.
The teams slugged it out in a 9-8 third quarter favoring the D’backs. Despite threes by Vaughn and Sean Verbitsky, El Dorado’s lead never dipped below double-digits in the fourth.
Key to the Cougars’ victory was their man-to-man defense they employed the whole way.
“Sean (Gregg) did a fantastic job (defensively) dictating what we wanted to do and made it difficult for them to get into their offensive sets,” El Dorado coach Ken Macklin said. “When we get to the rim both offensively and defensively … when we play tough … we can play with a lot of teams. Tonight we played team basketball and really gave ourselves a chance to win.”
Vance added 12 points to the Cougars’ total while Smith added eight, Justin Morrison, seven, Gregg and Soren Shepherd, four apiece, Line, three points, and Michael Webb a free throw. Vaughn led Union Mine with 13 points, Nelson had nine, Saich and McIntyre seven each, Sam Fluery, six and Sean Verbitsky, three.