Horns overcome slow start, thump Dragons, 55-37

Derrick Stuckly
Early's Ethan Mitchell (5) drives toward the bucket en route to a 17-point effort in the Longhorns' 55-37 victory over the Dragons Friday night. [Photo by Derrick Stuckly]

EARLY — Through the first eight games of District 6-3A boys basketball action only the league-leading Cisco Loboes had dished out a defeat to the Early Longhorns. But after one quarter of Friday night's matchup with the rival Bangs Dragons, the Longhorns found themselves in a hole.

The Dragons, seeking both their first district and season victory, carried a 14-9 advantage into the second period, where Early reeled off 16 of the 18 points in the quarter to open a nine-point halftime lead, which eventually resulted in a 55-37 victory.

Early (15-10, 7-2) trailed by five points early in the game, 9-4, but pulled even at 9 on a traditional three-point play by Kiah Laborn at 3:16 of the quarter. Bangs (0-18, 0-9) answered with the final five points of the frame, two by T.J. Butler and a trey from Wyatt Lykins.

After holding Bangs scoreless for a 4:56 stretch, including the first 3:05 of the second period, the Longhorns regained a 15-14 edge on a bucket by Ethan Mitchell. Mitchell had started the scoring for Early in the quarter, then Timmy Smithson added a bucket to begin the string of 16 straight Longhorn points.

Mitchell followed with another deuce ahead of a three-pointer that extended Early's lead to 20-14 at the 4:11 mark of the second period. Smithson then chipped in a traditional three-point play and Nathan Mitchell contributed a bucket with 3:12 left in the half to cap the run.

Bangs avoided a shutout in the quarter with just 23 seconds left as Wesley Mitchell's bucket served as the only Dragon points of the period.

Leading 25-16 at halftime, the Longhorns gradually extended their lead in the second half. The full-court pressure that turned the game around for Early in the second period resulted in 24 Bangs turnovers by the end of the night.

The Longhorns' lead eclipsed 20 points, 41-20, with 2:49 left in the third period when Carlos Moreno scored following an offensive rebound.

Early carried a 48-24 edge into the fourth period, where the lead peaked at 25 points, 52-27, with 6:52 to go on another bucket by Laborn.

Ethan Mitchell led the Longhorns with 17 points followed by Smithson with 15, Laborn with nine, Moreno and Bryce Denson with three apiece and Brent Grooms, Nathan Mitchell, Drew Bhatka and Vic Cooper contributed two points each.

For Bangs, Wesley Mitchell led the charge with 12 points trailed by Butler, Lykins and Logan Massey with six points each, Trey Ivey with four and Riley Taylor with three.

The Longhorns are back in action at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Dublin while the Dragons will host Hamilton at the same time.