For head coach Travis Day and the Eagles, the success took a little bit of time to build, as several players were coming off of a phenomenal football season that ended in an all-out battle with MICDS in St. Louis at sectionals. As the season began to hit full swing after Christmas break, the NMCC team took shape. Going 13-5 in their last 18 games, they captured their first district title since 2002 with a victory over the Portageville Bulldogs 61-41.
"We've learned a lot about each other," Day said of his team's success since their last meeting with Doniphan. "We're coming together as one. We're playing great as a unit, and there's not one person that will have to step up individually, everybody will."
NMCC will look to their younger players to lead them once again, as sophomores Dontre Jenkins and Kony Ealy have carried a bulk load of the offense in the Eagles 26 games. In the district title game, Jenkins led all scorers with 19 points, while Ealy recorded 16 points and 15 rebounds.
Josh Minner, Justin Beasley and Lance Price will also be looked to for leadership in the sectional game, as they go up against the potent offense of the Dons, led by Chandler Wilson and Charles Wilson.
"We're playing better ball and defending better," Day said, when asked about what the difference in the two games could be. "That (last game against Doniphan) was probably the worst second half we've ever had, scoring nine points in the half. We've got to step it up this time."
In Doniphan's district title game against the Malden Green Wave, Charles Wilson poured in 27 points, as the Dons defeated the Green Wave 49-43, improving their record to 22-5. The last district title for Doniphan came in 2006, where they went on to lose their sectional contest to the Charleston Bluejays. The last time that the Dons reached the Final Four was in 1934, finishing in third place.
"It's going to be one of the toughest teams we've gone up against all year," said Day of the Doniphan squad. "Doniphan will be well prepared. They're a very good offensive team. They run their offense to a T, and if you make a mistake, they're going to score."
NMCC last reached the Final Four in 2002, where they finished as a runner-
up in the title game to MICDS by a final score of 53-51.
"We've got to limit our turnovers," said Day when asked about the keys to victory for Wednesday night's game. "They're a very good offensive rebounding team. We'll have to keep them off the boards, maintain them and run."
The Eagles, now 16-10, will try to extend their season one more game Wednesday night, as they face-off against the Dons at 7:45 p.m. at Peter's Gym at Poplar Bluff High School.
The winner will advance to a quarterfinal match-up against the winner between Crystal City (23-3) and Maplewood-Richmond Heights (24-4), which is also being played Wednesday night, at Jefferson College in Hillsboro. The quarterfinal contest will be played at the Farmington Civic Center at 2:45 p.m. on Saturday.