COLUMBIA -- Dereke Tipler scored a season-high 37 points Friday afternoon, leading New Madrid County Central to an 85-72 win over Westport Edison Charter in the Class 3A semifinals at the Hearnes Center in Columbia.
The two-time all-stater hit 13-of-17 shots from the field and was a perfect 8-for-8 in the first half. He also dished out seven assists with three steals and four rebounds.
"He's everything they said he was and a little bit more," said Westport coach Roy Copeland. "I wish I would've got a better scouting report on him. We haven't seen a guard like that all year. We were out to stop his penetration and he was still getting through us."
Tiper's defender also felt he was better than advertised.
"I've never played against anybody as strong as him," said Westport guard Michael Jefferson. "He's got that jump-stop, which gets him open a lot. Then when you worry about him, he gives everybody else the ball. He can play."
NMCC played Mary Institute-Country Day School in Saturday's 3A championship game. Results will be in Monday's paper. The extremely quick and athletic Westport team put on a show in Friday's loss, draining several 25-footers with seven crowd-pleasing slam dunks.
Sophomore Brandon Rush (6-6) provided most of the excitement for the Tigers, scoring 17 points with 13 rebounds with six impressive jams.
Jefferson and guard Joshua Hudspeth were also impressive, scoring 20 and 18 points respectively with several 3-pointers well beyond NBA range.
The Tigers looked out of control at times though, relying on one-on-one matchups instead of running a set offense.
"A lot of people get upset with the way we play, but that's our type of ball," said Copeland. "It got us this far, and we weren't going to go away from it.
When it's working, it looks good. When it's not working, it looks bad."
It worked for Westport in the first quarter. Rush had two follow-up slams and Jefferson and Hudspeth each nailed 3-point bombs as the Tigers jumped out to a 21-18 lead. The Tigers led by as much as seven in the first period.
"We wanted to blow them away," said Jefferson, "but (NMCC) came back at us with another run and started playing like the state champs."
Desmond Sims was able to slow Rush's offensive production in the second quarter and Tipler took over, pushing NMCC to a 34-27 lead.
"Desmond did a great job for us," said NMCC head coach Joby Holland. "As soon as the shot went up, we wanted to go right to (Rush) and block him out. We knew he hit the boards extremely hard. We lost him a little bit early, then Desmond came in and really checked him. He did a good job of being physical with him."
Westport was able to regain the momentum in the final minutes of the period as Rush produced a conventional 3-point play, followed by a reverse dunk on a lob pass. Hudspeth ended the period with another dunk, shaving the halftime lead down to 38-33.
Rush added another dunk to his highlight reel in the third quarter with a lob pass off the backboard. It was one of the few bright spots for the Tigers though as the Eagles increased the lead to 60-47 heading into the final quarter. "They got themselves out of the game by shooting deep 3-pointers, trying to get flashy," said Tipler. "They wanted to get all the dunks and embarrass us. We kept our composure and made a good run."
The Eagles opened up a 19-point lead and appeared to be on the verge of blowing out the Tigers.
Westport made one last run at NMCC in the fourth quarter, hitting four long 3-pointers in the final four minutes. Holland also added to Westport's cause with a technical foul. "I was extremely concerned, especially when I got the technical there," said Holland. "
"(Westport) was one of the most electrifying teams we've gone up against. A team that gets here always has a run left in them. Nobody is going to quit at this level, and we didn't expect them to. I knew they would come back and play with some emotion."
The Tigers got as close as seven points but ran out of time.
Ronland Ranson scored 17 points for NMCC, followed by Terrance Smith with 13 and Derrell Minner with 10. The Eagles shot 58 percent from the field.
Scott Stone scored 24 points Friday to lead Mary Institute/Country Day to a 54-50 win over Nixa in the Class 3A Boys state semifinals.
Stone made 6-of-13 3-point attempts and added six rebounds for St. Louis-based MICDS (28-3). The team shot 50 percent and outrebounded Nixa (27-5) 35-28. Avian Jordan had 11 points and 10 rebounds for MICDS.
Royce Moore scored 23 points to lead Nixa.