By Greg Perkins
Holbrook’s opening round East Regional tournament game with visiting Show Low went right down to the wire twice, before the fifth seeded Cougars upended the fourth seeded Roadrunners.
In the first stanza the much taller Cougars used their height advantage, working the ball inside for 13 points. Holbrook’s Terrence Kelly nailed a pair of treys, and Josiah Freddie worked against the Show Low zone for seven helping Holbrook keep pace at 13-13. Tyrell Nelson came to life from distance in the second with two of his five three-point shots and Eric Baldonado, Freddie, and Jaren Jackson each hit a traditional field goal giving Holbrook a 25-22 halftime edge.
Show Low overtook the Birds with a strong third period despite another four from Freddie. Trailing by five points going into the fourth, Holbrook quickly made up the deficit with two three-point shots from Nelson, which appeared to put Holbrook on top 42 to 41. After a stoppage in play corrected the score to 43-42 in favor of the Cougars, Holbrook picked up a free throw from Freddie tying the game at 43-43 with nearly three minutes left in the game. Those final three minutes wound down with Holbrook in control of the ball for most of it. The Roadrunners elected to go for a final shot, which came up just short sending the game into overtime.
In the extra session Holbrook got just one bucket from Baldonado off a steal and one of two free throws from Freddie. Show Low countered with two field goals and made one of two free throws to win the game 48-46. Baldonado’s desperation half court heave, which would have won the game for Holbrook rattled in and out before falling away.
In what was Holbrook’s final home game of the season Nelson led the way with 15 points on five treys. Freddie played well and finished with 14. Kelly added 7; Baldonado 6, Emerson Begay 2, and Jackson chipped in with two. Holbrook made three of eight free throws and hit seven three-point shots.
With the loss the Roadrunners dropped their season mark to 14-16. They entered the game ranked 23rd in power points and if they can remain inside the top 24 in the standings, which they should, they will open play in the first round of the state tournament today (Wednesday, Feb. 14) on the road at the site of a higher seeded team.
If for some reason they get bumped out of the top 24 in the rankings their season will be over. Each of the six sections in 3A are guaranteed three teams into the state tournament field. Also any team finishing third or better in either the North Regional or the East Regional automatically makes the state tournament as well.