The Bobcat Classic basketball tournament wrapped up its 11th successful year Friday night at Bluffton High School and, just like most of the previous ones, it was Bluffton girls coach Lonnie Roberts in charge of keeping the trains on time.
Roberts, whose squad went 0-2 in this year’s edition of the tourney, was busy handing out trophies and chatting with departing teams as the final night came to a close. He even found himself in charge of selecting and playing music over the sound system during intermissions.
Things don’t always go off without a hitch — teams leave without their trophies, other teams don’t even bother to show up — but Roberts is still glad to put on the tournament, which has become a fixture in the Lowcountry during the holiday season.
“As of now, it’s probably going to stay for another year or two,” Roberts said with a grin.
One team that will be happy to hear that is The Academy of the Holy Cross from Kensington, Md. The Tartans mounted a second-half rally to knock off Eagle’s Landing (McDonough, Ga.) in the girls championship game Friday night, 42-40. Margareth Tchoufa had a couple of late baskets and a pair of free throws to help the Tartans (4-5) take the lead, and then she sealed the victory by making a steal at the buzzer. Tchoufa, named the girls MVP of the tournament, finished with 10 points — all in the second half.
Madison Boyd added 10 points for the winners and also earned a spot on the all-tourney team. Kiera Howard and Ashley Foster had 10 points each for Eagle’s Landing (10-2) in the loss, and both were named to the all-tournament team.
“We’ll definitely be back here if they have it next year,” Tartans head coach John Witherspoon said, “because we love the venue, we love the hospitality that Coach Roberts and his staff have given us. And the competition is great, boys and girls side.”
The Tartans trailed 24-16 at the half and 33-26 after three quarters before rallying to victory.
“We came up with a very good game plan,” Witherspoon said. “Once they invested in doing it, things worked out a little better and that’s where we came out on a little run. I’m proud of them for stepping up to end the game, because that’s an area that we’ve been focusing on — finishing a game. Thankfully, they were able to do it.
“They’re a great team — Eagle’s Landing is tough,” he added. “They finally bought into our concept of what we needed to do. It was good to see.”
Eagle’s Landing had played its way into the final by beating Bluffton on Thursday night, 43-12. That was the Bobcats’ first game of the tournament after an Ohio squad dropped out of the event at the last minute. Roberts was disappointed with that, but he was happy his team got some valuable tournament experience nonetheless.
“Unfortunately, with Hurricane Matthew, we had to cancel our tournament in North Augusta,” Roberts said.
“It’s good to be home,” he said of the Bobcat Classic. “You don’t have to worry about having to go find an outside team; you can play the teams here in your own backyard. The competition came to us this year, which is great. We just want to get better, we want to find a way to get better. Bluffton, my team, we need this. We need this to get better, so that when we get in certain situations, we’ll be able to understand it and we’ll be able to build on it.”
In a consolation game earlier, Ridgeland-Hardeeville’s boys topped Bluffton 75-71 despite Jermaine Patterson’s 43-point performance.