But, a pair of road games at Volunteer State on Friday night did not go well for the Cougars and Lady Cougars as each squad came up on the short end of the scoreboard in their Region VII matchups.
The Lady Cougars fought valiantly, but never really threatened the very talented Lady Pioneers as they dropped a 73-50 decision. The Cougars on the other hand, despite dressing only eight players and playing without leading scorer Travis Jones who broke his foot in practice, gave the Pioneers all they could handle before falling, 87-81.
The Cougars dug themselves an early hole and had to play catch-up the rest of the way. The Pioneers sizzled the nets to open the contest as they hit the Cougars with a 23-8 run right out of the gate. Alex Marzette nailed a 3-pointer to get the home team off an running and later added a slam dunk and a pair of jumpers to the cause.
Ralph Eason then took matters into his own hands as he put the Cougars on his back and proceeded to help his team claw its way back within striking distance with 18 first half points, including a trio of shots from 3-point land and a variety of slashing moves to the hoop. Filipe Goncalves and Dantario Dansby nailed a three ball each and Kahan Swift added a pair of acrobatic layups — including a putback at the buzzer — to slice the halftime deficit for the Cougars to 10 points, 51-41.
The teams traded buckets for the first few minutes of the second half as the Cougars found themselves trailing by 15 with 10 minutes to play. Three-pointers from Eason, Goncalves, Dansby and Gabe Dando sliced the lead to single digits and a pair of free tosses and two more putbacks from Swift made things interesting as the visitors cut the lead to three points, 84-81 with just over a minute to play and the ball in their hands.
The rally would fall just short though, as the Pioneers picked off an errant pass and hit just enough free throws to hold on for the win. Eason recorded a career high with 31 points to lead all scorers for the Cougars (11-6, 6-4), Swift added 14 points while Goncalves and Trey Suttles finished with 12 points apiece. Martez Harris paced the Pioneers with 23 points while Marzette added 21 and Thomas Wright had 14.
LADY PIONEERS 73
LADY COUGARS 50
The lead changed hands four times in the first four minutes in the ladies’ game as the Lady Cougars took an early 8-5 lead. But after that, it was all Lady Pioneers as they went on a 20-2 run to turn the deficit into a 15-point lead. The home team knocked down six treys in the first half as Katie Bliss had four of them.
Shadave Taylor and Me'Lisa Martinez led a Lady Cougar uprising late in the first half as Taylor connected on a pair of twisting layups and Martinez added a pair of jumpers and a 3-pointer, cutting the lead to seven points. It was a 10-point spread at halftime, with CSCC trailing 34-24.
The Lady Pioneers opened the second half as they had the first with a big run. This time a 14-4 run was spurred by their powerful inside game as the home team dominated the boards on both ends.
The Lady Cougars came right back with an 11-0 run of their own to cut the lead to 10 points at 50-40 with just under nine minutes to play. But that would be the end of any comeback thoughts as the Lady Pioneers zipped back out to a 20-point lead and cruised to the win.
Taylor led the way for the Lady Cougars (12-7, 5-5) with 15 points while Hannah Brown, Jara Gasper and Martinez added nine points each. Natasha West paced the Lady Pioneers (16-1, 10-1) with 17 points, Katie Bliss added 14 points and Carly Dickens had 13.