A 49-43 loss to WhiteriverSaturday at Show Low High School ended the Rim Country Middle School eighth-grade boys basketball team's dream of winning a White Mountain League championship.
In the tournament finale, the Mavericks jumped out to a 9-8 lead, only to see it evaporate under a 13-3 scoring barrage by the Roughriders. Trailing 21-12 at halftime, the Mavericks closed Whiteriver's cushion to 34-29 early in the fourth quarter.
The Mavericks put on a free throw shooting clinic late in the game, hitting 10 of 13 attempts, but it wasn't enough to overcome the lead Whiteriver had built earlier.
Josh Blalock took game scoring honors with 16 points. Zack Belcher contributed eight and Derrick Hoosava had six.
With the loss, the Mavericks were forced to settle for WML runner-up honors. Those laurels come on the heels of the RCMS boys winning the WML football championship last fall.
The Mavericks (8-5) advanced to the league basketball championship by virtue of a pair of one-point victories and a bye.
Because the middle school had finished 5-1 and tied for second in the regular season, the Mavs were awarded a first round tournament bye.
In the second round, March 7 in Wilson Dome, RCMS rallied from a three-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Blue Ridge 35-34.
In semifinal action Saturday morning at Show Low High School, the Mavericks earned a berth in the championship with a 32-31 win over Winslow.
After falling behind 11-5 in the first quarter, the Mavericks rode the scoring of Blalock to a 23-18 halftime lead. In the stanza, Blalock score 10 of RCMS's 18 points.
Both teams cooled off considerably in the second half combining for only 24 points.
It's unlikely the Mavericks would have emerged victorious had it not been for clutch three-point shots late in the game by Larry Everetts and Blalock. Both hit the three-balls just as Winslow was about to take the lead.
Game-scoring honors went to Blalock with 14 points. Everetts finished with eight.
During the regular season, the Mavericks and Bulldogs as evenly matched as two middle school teams can be split a pair of games.
In the tournament second-round win over Blue Ridge, the Mavs found themselves trailing 10-4 early in the second quarter and 20-17 at halftime.
Blue Ridge continued to hold a three-point lead (30-27) early in the final stanza before RCMS outscored BR 8-4 in the final minutes.
With eight of the 12 players on the roster scoring, the Mavs were fueled by a well-rounded scoring attack.
Belcher finished with 10 and Brandon Buckner had five. Robert Neumann, Blalock and Everetts contributed four each.
The Maverick team was coached by former Payson High School basketball coach Randy Wilcox. The team, Wilcox predicted, could experience considerable success in high school if it continues to work hard and the players improve their individual skills.
With the hoop season at an end, athletes at RCMS are now turning out for track and field practices that began Tuesday.