"In a lot of ways, that was a win for us," said NMCC coach Scott Kruse. "We had a lot of good practices over the holidays and got a lot of work in. We built on what we've been working on, and that's so fun to see."
The Eagles (4-8) trailed by as much as 10 points in the third quarter, but fought their way back into the game, thanks in large part to a rarely-used zone defense.
They kept three players in the paint and had two guards chase the ball handler, forcing Blytheville to fire from the outside.
The move paid off as the Chickasaws shot just 32 percent from the field, hitting 21-of-66 shots.
"We've shot it well all year, but the last two times we've come out against zones, we haven't done so well," said Blytheville coach David Hixson. "It was an effective zone, because they took away our inside game. You've got to knock down some perimeter shots against that, and we didn't do it very effectively."
NMCC trailed 41-37 going into the fourth quarter, but outscored Blytheville 13-9 in the final frame to force overtime.
The Chicks (10-2) appeared to have the game won with 14 seconds left, holding the ball with a two-point lead. But Edgar Givens came up with a huge defensive play, slapping the ball away from Blytheville's Doug Echols.
NMCC point guard Malcom Long then picked up the ball and took it coast to coast for the game-tying layup.
Blytheville quickly got the ball down the floor, but Givens came up with another steal underneath the Chicks' basket with two seconds left. NMCC took a quick timeout, but was unable to score before time expired.
"We wanted to make them beat us tonight," said Kruse. "Then once we did enough things right and gave ourselves a chance, we got aggressive and flat-out tried to beat them. I would rather do that right now. I want our guys to feel we can be aggressive and go after people, and not sit back and hope we win."
NMCC had a chance to seal the game in regulation, but were doomed by several mistakes in the final five minutes and in overtime.
In that span, the Eagles turned the ball over eight times and missed six foul shots. One of the turnovers was a five-seconds call and failed to box out twice, allowing two easy Blytheville baskets.
"We've got to be a lot better with the basketball and be a little more patient," said Kruse. "But our defense was solid and we rebounded well. If we wouldn't have rebounded, they would've beat us by 20 or 30."
Blytheville struggled offensively most of the game, but made up for it in overtime. David Williams opened the extra period with a 3-pointer as the Chickasaws ended the game with a 13-7 run.
"It was one of those games you like to watch as a fan," said Hixson. "But it was not a fun one to coach. It came down to who made the plays at the right time, and I think we were fortunate enough to do that."
John Fowler led Blytheville with 20 points. Echols finished with 10, Williams had nine and Vontrell Whaley added eight. "Going into the game, I knew (NMCC) would be better," said Hixson. "Coach (Kruse) has got them turned around and believing in what they're doing. We expected a tough ballgame and got that. They are a very athletic team and this is not an easy place to play."
For NMCC, Givens scored 18 and Long had 13. Jordan Kimball and Vaughn Shepherd each contributed nine.
The Eagles will be back in action on Saturday, hosting Massac County.
"We're pleased with the way we played this type of an opponent," said Kruse. "That's all we've got on our schedule right now, and we want to give ourselves a chance to beat some of these people. Maybe we can slip up on somebody."