Everyone in Butler County knew that the contest between the El Dorado Wildcats and Circle Thunderbirds was going to be a dog fight.
The game lived to its billing.
The Wildcats earned Butler County bragging rights defeating the Circle Thunderbirds in a back and forth contest Friday 70-63.
"I thought both teams played well offensively in the first half and in the second half it boiled down to a brawl which the second half turned ugly because of the amount of fouls," said EHS head coach Gary Melcher.
With both teams trying to establish some rhythm Circle grabbed an early 17-16 lead over El Dorado in the opening eight minutes of play.
The second quarter was even more wide open with both teams trying to out run and gun the other but the Wildcats managed to find the bottom of the net just a little more frequently outscoring Circle 20-16 in the second to take a 36-33 lead into the locker room.
"I was proud of our kids they didn't let the pressure get to them, we didn't go to the line and make free throws the way I was hoping we would late, at this point in time it was about getting to the substate final and we did that tonight," said Melcher.
The offensive tempo slowed slightly in the third quarter and Circle fought back to get within a point at 46-45 outscoring the Wildcats 12-10 in the third heading to the final eight minutes of play.
"I thought we had different kids do different things tonight, it wasn't certainly our A game tonight, we had some of our starters out early because of fouls and we were able to hang around and give ourselves a chance to win," said Melcher.
The fourth quarter was much like the second with ferocity and pace up and down the hard wood for both squads.
The Wildcats managed to have the best offensive quarter of the game in the fourth scoring 24 points while Circle scored 18 points.
It was a chippy game for both team Circle was called for 25 fouls and El Dorado for 21 of their own with no love lost. Circle was 14-24 from the line while El Dorado was 18-31.
The Wildcats were led offensively by Travis House with 18 points that included a 3-pointer and going 3-5 from the line. House in the second quarter had a breakaway steal leading to an emphatic one-handed and one tomahawk dunk.
Johnstone Scott poured in 15 points that included a 3-pointer and going 2-6 from the line. Jared Haury dropped in 13 points that included two 3-pointers and going 3-4 from the line. Alec Hildreth added 12 points and went 6-8 from the stripe. Isaac Johnson added seven points and was 4-4 from the line. Wes Haines had three points and Dylan McAdoo had two points.
Circle was led by Dylan Driver with 19 points and going 5-8 from the line. Garrett Cannon added 12 points and was 4-5 from the line. Jake Smith added nine points that included a 3-pointer and going 4-7 from the stripe. Paul Richard had eight points, Justin Wright had six points, Braden Kirkpatrick had four points, Brendon Horyna had three points and Kaden Fowler added two points.
El Dorado plays Central tomorrow night for a chance to go to state.
"We are going to have to be efficient offensively and do a real good job on the boards and play with some confidence to compete with Central. The last goal is to play in the substate final and I would like for our group of kids to experience the state tournament, we have the opportunity we just have to go out and get it done tomorrow," said Melcher.