Ousted Twisters leave all on floor

Ousted Twisters leave all on floor
Ousted Twisters leave all on floor
ATWOOD — Rather than wishfully consider “what if,” Shane Sisco proudly spoke of “what was.”
“I don’t know if I could be any prouder of our effort,” the Union City coach said after his heavy-underdog team fought third-ranked Humboldt to the bitter end before falling 62-57 in the Region 7A boys’ semifinals Tuesday night.
The loss brought down the curtain on what was generally considered a sub-par season (15-19) for the tradition-rich Tornado program — one that boasts five state titles in its illustrious history — but the first losing campaign in Sisco’s 12 years on the bench.
Tuesday’s Herculean effort against a H’boldt program that has been UC’s nemesis of late with nine wins in their last 10 meetings should make the bitter pill of a tough season easier to swallow, though.
From the gutty play of senior guard Tyler Steward, who fearlessly attacked the bucket repeatedly despite playing with a torn elbow tendon and leading the Twisters with 17 points, to the collective effort of a club that rallied from a 13-point deficit to within 57-54 with two chances to tie in the final minute, the locals indeed “left it all on the floor.”
“We showed great character, or fortitude, or guts, or whatever you want to call it. Time just ran out on us,” Sisco claimed.
“Our three seniors, especially, gave us everything they had. Tyler Steward was just the epitome of a warrior out there. When other kids saw him and the effort he put in, it motivated them, I think. (Antonio) Cox was the focal point of their defense, yet still made some big plays on the defensive end and made some shots when we made the run late, and Russ (Smith) gave us a good, solid effort in the post, like he has all season.”
If not for nine missed free throws in the first half and a pair of stretches in the third and fourth quarters when Union City failed to capitalize on opportunities created by Humboldt turnovers, the Tornadoes might have indeed pulled off the shocker of the postseason.
“The two big things, I thought, were the missed free throws and not enough rebounds,” Sisco added. “In close games like this, you can always point to a couple of minutes of a few possessions, and the ones that really stand out are in the third quarter when Humboldt turned it over on four of five trips and we didn’t take advantage, and then in the fourth quarter when we got back-to-back steals — down three — and they stole it right back both times.”
After the Twisters’ Chris Boucher made the last of his three 3-pointers to get his team within 37-30 in the opening minute of the third period, UC went without a field goal until the 2:54 mark.
H’boldt (25-4), which had struggled initially in the period with its ballhandling, finally put together a trio of buckets to build its largest lead at 43-30 and seemingly had the Tornadoes on the ropes.
But Cox — Union City’s leading scorer on the season and the focal point of the Viking defense throughout the contest — suddenly caught fire after being held to just a single field goal over the first 21 minutes.
He drained a 3-pointer and then converted a steal into a deuce over a 15-second span to close the gap to 43-37 before Humboldt again opened the difference to double figures and led 49-39 with three quarters in the book.
A hustling Steward rejected a Viking shot underneath that spurred a run of six straight UC points and included baskets by Peyton Mosley, Smith and Cox. The Tornadoes again got within four points (52-48) when Rendell Martin and Cox traded old-fashioned 3-point plays — Cox’s coming on a miraculous 10-footer made while falling down before he then drained the charity toss.
Steward then got his own circus shot to fall underneath and added another driving bucket before Cox sank a 10-footer to make it a one-possession game at 57-54 with 50 seconds showing.
Mosley briefly came up with a steal before Humboldt’s Brooks snatched the ball back with that scenario repeating itself with Union City’s Jakyron Burnside temporarily coming up with a deflection before the Vikings regained possession with 34 seconds to go.
The Vikes then sandwiched three made-free throws around a costly Twister turnover to double their lead to six points before a Steward 3-pointer halved that difference to 60-57 with 19 seconds showing.
Quan Campbell then essentially iced the outcome, making two charities for a H’boldt team that went 7-of-10 from the stripe in the fourth quarter and 16-of-21 in all.
UC made four fewer free throws in the same number of attempts.
Cox joined Steward in double figures with 16 points for Union City while Martin had 19, Campbell 15 — including a monster breakaway dunk — and Tevin Bryson pitched in 10 for the victors.
Humboldt will play Lake County, an 82-60 winner over Bruceton in Tuesday’s second semi, for the regional championship on Thursday. Both teams will advance to sectional play Monday — regardless of Thursday night’s outcome.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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