PORTAGEVILLE - Malcolm Long hit a layup at the buzzer Friday night to lift the New Madrid County Central Eagles to their fourth win of the season. The Portageville Bulldogs took the loss, their second in a row. Portageville falls to 18-5.
Despite entering the contest with only three wins and 19 losses, the Eagles started and finished the contest with a lot of intensity and desire to win.
In the opening period NMCC tallied the first six points and went on to lead the favored Bulldogs for most of the quarter.
Portageville finally got on the scoreboard with 5:35 remaining on an Antonio Scott bucket. Willie Hassell knotted the score at 14 with 1:32 left with a trey, but NMCC answered with two buckets and led 18-16 at the end of one period.
The Bulldogs picked up the scoring pace in the second quarter and played some stingy defense, holding the Eagles to only seven points while scoring 12. Portageville held a 28-25 lead at intermission.
Hassell and NMCC's Joseph Howell each had 20 points to share game scoring honors.
"We've been working that hard all year and we've made enough mistakes to get us beat. Tonight, and lately, we eliminated some mistakes and are just really coming together," commented NMCC coach Scott Kruse.
"People think we haven't played together or played poorly but we haven't. We have run into some buzzsaws, but it has made us better now. I never expected to get a win here, but if everybody is on the same page we can get it done."
The Eagles got the better of the third period, scoring 23 and holding Portageville to 17. The two teams were tied six times in the quarter and neither team led by more than three.
NMCC hit all five attempts from the charity stripe including Howell's pair with only 12 seconds left on the clock to put the visitors up 48-45 at the end of three.
For the first four and a half minutes of the fourth quarter Portageville went on a 10-0 run. After a timeout, Ben Eakins connected on a 3-pointer to cut the Bulldog lead to 55-51.
Cory Chamberlain answered immediately with a three of his own at the 3:59 mark and Jordan Penn followed with a bucket and Portageville led by the contest's biggest margin 60-51 with only 3:18 remaining.
For the remainder of the game, the Bulldogs could score only two points-
both coming on a pair of free throws by Hassell with 19 seconds left. In that stretch, the Bulldogs had three opportunities from the line (excluding Hassell's) to win the contest but went 0-4, with two being one and bonus chances.
Long went 4-4 from the line in that stanza and then with six seconds left on the clock, went coast to coast and hit a layup at the buzzer for the win.
Eugene Cooper and Quentin Binion had 12 and 13 points, respectively for New Madrid Central.
Joining Hassell in double figures was Penn who had a dozen and Scott who added 11 for Portageville.
"We didn't hit our free throws again in the clutch, and New Madrid was not going to be denied. They played with all heart. There are no other teams in Southeast Missouri that had only won three ballgames who are going to come in here and play with the type of heart that they did," said Bulldog coach Jim Bidewell.
"We have to give Coach Kruse and his kids a lot of credit for perseverance. It's good to see that perseverance pays off. It's a good life lesson. We can all learn from the way they played tonight."
"I was proud of the way our kids played tonight. We had a good week of practice, so I'm not going to say we dogged it. We just didn't want it as bad as they did," concluded Bidewell.
Portageville won the jayvee contest 42-31.
Both teams will end their regular season Tuesday night with Portagville hosting Scott City and New Madrid Central visiting Kennett. The two teams will begin play in Class 3, District 1 at Portageville on February 28th.