MICDS pulls off shocker in 3A title game
COLUMBIA -- New Madrid County Central's hopes of a third consecutive Class 3A state championship were dashed by Mary Institute/Country Day School on Saturday in the title game at the Hearnes Center, 53-51.
"Everybody including ourselves, the community and the state expected us to win it," said NMCC head coach Joby Holland. "The main thing that was said (after the game) wasn't so much that we lost. It was more about this being the last time they're going to play together as a group. Had we won, I still think there would've been a lot of tears."
With the score tied in the final seconds of regulation, MICDS' Scott Stone was stripped of the ball by NMCC's Terrance Smith.
The ball went straight to Country Day's Avian Jordan, who sank a 15-foot baseline jumper with two seconds remaining.
"We were tied with the back-to-back defending state champions," said Jordan, who finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. "If I miss, we go into overtime and we still haven't lost. If I make it, it's over right then. Luckily, it went in."
The shot sealed the win for MICDS, handing the Eagles their first playoff loss in three years.
"Part of winning a state championship is luck and breaks," said Holland. "If that doesn't happen, we've got that (ball) stolen and we go into overtime with a brand new opportunity. The ball just didn't go our way."
After Jordan's clutch shot, NMCC immediately called timeout. There was some controversy with the amount of time left on the clock, and eventually the Eagles were given five-tenths of a second to attempt a desperation shot.
A baseball pass to Derrell Minner was a little too high, slipping through his hands at halfcourt into the arms of MICDS' Jason Larkins as time expired.
"I thought there was two and a half to three seconds left, but it ended up just being point-five," said Holland. "That's their call to make and not ours. You've just got to go with the hand you've been dealt. Who knows if we would've gotten it in or not, but two and a half seconds sure would've given us more time to work with."
After time expired, MICDS players rushed the floor while several NMCC players dropped to their knees in disbelief.
"It's a magical moment," said MICDS head coach Don Maurer. "These guys never cease to amaze me. They always find a way to win."
MICDS (29-3) pulled off the upset with a perfectly-executed gameplan. With a zone and a sagging man-to-man defense, the Rams clogged up the inside and kept the Eagles from penetrating.
"We tried to make them beat us from the outside, and they didn't hit enough to get it done," said Maurer. "(NMCC) is very similar to Lutheran North, who we've played three times. I think we would've had a harder time getting prepared for another team. I told my wife I felt real good about this, because the guys know what we needed to do. They've done it before and it will work. I didn't know if it would work well enough for us to win, but I knew it would work."
Standout Dereke Tipler, who scored a season-high 37 points in NMCC's semifinal win, was held to 16 points on 7-of-16 shooting. MICDS' Erick Richardson guarded Tipler, forcing him to take more mid-range jump shots.
"We didn't feel like (Tipler) could hurt us as much from out there. He goes to the basket and changes direction in a flash. You don't get many charging calls on him because he's so elusive, and he's got a soft touch. We told Erick to play back on him and pick him up at the free throw line."
MICDS also took Ronland Ranson out of the offense, limiting the 6-foot-4 senior to one point with eight rebounds. Tyler Wagner had a good night for the Eagles, scoring 13 points with several big shots down the stretch.
"Tyler had a heck of a game," said Holland. "If not for him, we would've had a bigger deficit to overcome. He got us back in the game and gave us an opportunity to win it. He had a good career and a good senior year for us."
NMCC (28-4) opened the game on a 6-0 run, but MICDS rallied, led by the smooth-shooting Scott Stone. The 6-foot-2 senior pumped in 6-of-11 three-pointers in the game with 22 points overall.
"He's a good player," said Holland. "Him hitting them tonight wasn't a fluke. I got to see him play a lot this summer along with Dereke on the St. Louis Eagles AAU team. He hit some big ones when they needed them."
MICDS trailed 28-25 at halftime, then outscored NMCC 28-23 in the second half.
"On January 12, we had to sit down and do a little soul searching to get some things in order," said Maurer. "We have not lost since then. I think these guys realized then that we could be better and started playing together."
Possibly even more impressive than the upset win over NMCC was the fact that MICDS did it with just five players. The Rams had no substitutions, playing its starting lineup the entire game.
"There are two or three times that we've done that this year," said Maurer. "I tell everybody that we've only got 6 1/2 players that we can use, and I'm not going to tell you who the half is."
No team has ever won three consecutive Class 3A titles.
"We're disappointed, but at the same time, it has been a great season," said Holland. "The kids made it through a lot of adversity with everybody shooting for them. I'm very proud of them. It's hard to get (to state) one time, much less three times. They gave me their best effort all year."
In the Class 3A Boys third-place game, Glennon Hayes scored 38 points to lead Nixa to an 80-74 victory over Westport Edison Charter.
Hayes made 12-of-20 shots, including 8-of-10 free throws and 6-of-8 3-point attempts. Royce Moore added 16 points and nine rebounds for Nixa (28-5).
Westport (23-7) had 19 turnovers but also had 11 blocks, including seven by Brandon Rush, brother of Missouri star forward Kareem Rush. Rush also had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Ronald Shephard led Westport with 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting.