NEW MADRID -- Portageville fell two points short of NMCC on Friday night, losing the historic first game between the two county rivals, 50-48.
While the Eagles had several letdowns and miscues, head coach Joby Holland was pleased just to get out with a win. "We were just fortunate to win it," said Holland.
"Portageville could've won just as easily as we did. It feels good to beat them, there's no question about it. It doesn't matter what (Portageville) Coach (Jim) Bidewell has to work with, he gets the most out of every kid he's got. He's an excellent coach and he's got a good group. They're going to have a big run in Class 2A if they don't win the thing."
It was a high-profile game between two of the best teams in Missouri.
New Madrid came into the game ranked No. 2 in Class 3A, riding a five-game win streak. Portageville was ranked No. 4 in Class 2A with 13 consecutive victories.
"We expected to come in here and win, but you have to hand it to New Madrid," said Bidewell. "It was their seniors' last game here and it was their homecoming. Not too many teams are going to come in and ruin this last fling for them."
New Madrid held a 17-point lead late in the third quarter, only to see the Bulldogs claw their way back into contention before running out of time.
Portageville, trailing by two with 16 seconds left, sent Terrance Smith to the free throw line. Smith missed the front end of his one-and-one, but teammate Ronland Ranson put it back up and in to make it a two-possession game.
Portageville's Jordan French was able to hit an off-balance shot to shave the lead back to two points, but the Bulldogs were unable to get the ball back before time expired. NMCC has now won 25 consecutive home games, dating back to the 1999-2000 season.
"We didn't take care of the basketball and I thought we made a lot of bad decisions," said Holland of his team's performance in the fourth quarter. "They were typical of some of the decisions we've been making lately that I haven't been real pleased with. This time of the year, every possession is crucial and critical. But we didn't treat them that way."
At the beginning of the game, Portageville came out on fire as J.T. Williams, Dantwan Chillers and Eric Booker hit back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Bulldogs an early 9-6 lead.
After a Ranson free throw, Dereke Tipler gave NMCC the lead with a conventional 3-point play. Derrell Minner and Brian Murph then brought NMCC's fans to their feet with back-to-back slam dunks off steals to end the quarter. NMCC led 16-11.
"We came out hot and hit two or three shots," said Bidewell. "I think we thought we were going to play the whole game like that, and we got to jacking it up and not taking good shots. We didn't execute defensively or block out on the boards in that first half."
NMCC increased its lead to 20-12 in the second quarter, then Portageville was whistled for two technicals for arguing a foul. The Eagles got two points out of the four free throws, then scored on the ensuing possession to make it 24-12.
In the final seconds of the period, Portageville's Bryant Sims produced a conventional 3-point play to shave NMCC's lead down to seven points. But Tipler hit a full-court desperation shot at the buzzer to give NMCC a 31-21 halftime lead.
"I lost my cool in the second quarter and (NMCC) got four points off of it," said Bidewell. "Then they hit that shot right before halftime. That was a seven-point difference right there. In a close ballgame, a coach can't put his team in a situation like that, and I did. But they had the guts to come back in the second half and fight. We just ran out of seconds. I'm proud of the guys."
Everything was falling for NMCC early in the third quarter. With 3:09 left in the period, Terrance Smith hit a 3-pointer to give the Eagles a commanding 42-25 lead. But it was all Portageville the rest of the game.
The Bulldogs ended the third period on an 8-2 run, and it carried over into the final frame. Portageville was able to outscore NMCC 14-6 in the final quarter, but their efforts fell two points short.
"Regardless of the decisions we made, you have to give Portageville some credit (for the comeback)," said Holland. "They answered the bell and came back after us."
Tipler led all NMCC scorers with 16 points, followed by Minner with 12 and Ranson with 11. Booker paced Portageville with 15, followed by Williams with 13 and Chillers with nine. "I hope this helps us," said Bidewell. "We had a stretch there where we didn't have any close ballgames. We feel like we can play with anybody in the state in any class, but we also realize that anybody can beat us if we let up any."
Portageville won the junior varsity game in overtime, 46-39. Lance Penn and Willie Hassell each led the Bulldogs with 11 points, while Vaughn Shepard scored 11 for NMCC.