(Photo by Lance Hanlin, Staff)
SCOTT CITY - For the second year in a row, the Scott County Central Braves and the Oran Eagles will square off for the Scott-Mississippi Conference Tournament championship tonight at 8 p.m. at Scott City High School.
The fourth-seeded Braves upset top-seeded Scott City 71-68 in the first game of the night.
Oran, seeded second, defeated No. 3 Kelly 59-52 to advance to the championship in the nightcap.
Scott Central defeated Oran 69-68 in overtime in last year's championship game.
The Braves jumped out to the early lead to set the tone in the game, taking a 20-12 lead after one quarter.
Scott City (9-5) was able to cut the Braves' lead to 35-31 by halftime and they were able to take a 53-51 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
But behind the solid play of 6-4 senior Chris Pullen, Scott Central was able to pull out the three-point win.
Scott City had two 3-point attempts to tie the game in the waning moments but both shots were off the mark.
It's the most notable win of the year for the young Scott Central team.
"That's a big win for us -- here, at Scott City, it's big," said Scott Central head coach Melvin Porter. "It really takes everybody pulling together. The bottom line is that everybody is finally learning to accept their role and they're pulling together. I would say that's our biggest win of the year."
The Braves got 31 points out of Pullen to lead all scorers. Sophomore Jeremy Johnson followed up with 14 points and 6-5 sophomore Chris Monroe had 12 points.
Scott Central (6-9) will try to defend its conference championship tonight, but regardless of the outcome, Porter is hoping the tournament can be used as a springboard for the rest of the season.
"This tournament could be a turning point for us," said Porter. "The thing of it is, you've got to build momentum and now is the right time to build that momentum. We're getting ready for districts in about a month and now we need to start really gelling."
Scott City was led by 6-8 junior Tyler Ward with 21 points. Senior D.J. Walton had 16 points and junior Jeremy Schlosser had 10 points.
With the win against Kelly, Oran reached the title game for the second year in a row.
The Eagles already own a 64-59 win against Scott Central this season dating back to the Christmas tournament.
On Thursday, the Eagles used a furious transition game and controlled the boards to hold off the Hawks.
"I thought we passed the ball real well," said Oran head coach Mitch Wood. "We made some good passes and cuts and had a lot of layups. We got some good looks and wide open shots. I thought the kids played real hard and played good basketball tonight."
The Eagles fell behind 7-4 but quickly responded by going on a 14-4 run to take an 18-11 lead.
Oran (12-4) led 18-13 at the end of the quarter.
Kelly got as close as 18-17 in the second quarter but would not get any closer the rest of the way.
Oran went on a 19-5 run capped by Ryne Wood's 3-pointer with 27 seconds left in the first half to take a 37-22 lead.
Kelly (7-8) would score before the end of the second quarter to trail 37-24 at the half.
But Oran was able to open up the lead by getting out and scoring several fast-break points.
"I watched them play a little bit and the teams that have beaten them have gotten down the floor and shot layups on them and I thought we did a good job of doing that," said Wood. "I thought we passed the ball real well. We made some good passes and cuts and had a lot of layups. We got some good looks and wide open shots. I thought the kids played real hard and played good basketball tonight."
Kelly had several chances to trim the lead in the third quarter but couldn't get closer than nine as Oran led 43-34 heading into the fourth quarter.
Kelly was able to get as close as 49-44 with 1:40 left when Lance Scheffer buried a 3-pointer.
The Hawks' best chance of getting back in the game was wiped out shortly after. Wood missed the front end of a one-and-one which Kelly rebounded. But Oran stole the ball and Wood nailed a 3-pointer with 1:14 left to make it 52-44.
The Hawks didn't get closer than seven the rest of the way.
"We dug a hole on our free throws," said Kelly head coach Nick Lanpher. "We missed eight free throws in the first half and two front end one-and-ones. Had we made those free throws it could've put more pressure on Oran and cause more turnovers. But we had opportunities throughout the game to get back in but we just missed too many easy shots. We're not jumping on our shots."
Oran was led by Wood's 19 points, including four 3-pointers. "He's had mono and he's turned both ankles at the first part of the year, so right now he's getting more healthy," said Coach Wood. "He's coming around and playing like I know he can."
Nathan Seyer added 14 points with 11 rebounds and Tyler Cookson had 10 points and eight rebounds.
"The Seyer kid is always playing well," said Wood. "Cookson did good job tonight. (Patrick) Friga was a little off but he's been doing a good job for us."
Kelly was led by Major Burger's 14 points. Lance Scheffer and Chris Romas each had 12 points and Mike Scherer had 11 points.
"Oran is a good strong team," said Lanpher. "Those boys are strong. They're hard to move around on the boards and they're real fundamentally sound. They hit the open man under the goal where we knew they were going with it. But we were unable to stop it."