Eagles win Class A bracket
CARBONDALE -- New Madrid County Central won the Class A tournament and fell just two points short of winning the "championship plus" game at the Carbondale Holiday Tournament Saturday night.
The Eagles defeated DuQuoin for the small school title 68-49, then later in the evening, dropped a 62-60 heartbreaker to Carbondale in a game between the two tournament champions.
"We had a heck of a week," said NMCC coach Joby Holland. "We won the Class A Tournament, and we had every opportunity to win this bonus game. We got three wins in this week and the kids really came together as a team."
In the championship plus, NMCC saw Carbondale's Justin Dentman drive the length of the floor and score what turned out to be the game-winning shot with 2.4 seconds left.
The Eagles had a chance to win the game, but Tyler Wagner's desperation 3-point shot at the buzzer was off its mark. "It would've been nice to win it, and I certainly don't want the players to accept losing," said Holland. "But at the same time, we got a lot of things accomplished this week. I'm proud of all of them."
One of the biggest gains for NMCC was the emergence of Brian Murph, who made the all-tournament team.
After three solid games in the SIU Arena, the 6-foot-2 senior saved his best game for Carbondale, hitting 7-of-10 from the field while shooting a perfect 4-for-4 from behind the arc to lead the Eagles with 21 points.
"We've found Brian Murph," said Holland. "Now all of a sudden, we've got a wing player that is averaging about 18 points per game and is jumping out of the gym. He really stepped up this week and played some great basketball. He made some big plays and his confidence is through the roof right now."
Standout Dereke Tipler also make the all-tournament team, and was named the Most Valuable Player of the Class A tournament. The two-time all-stater scored 20 points with four assists and six rebounds.
For Carbondale, Dentman scored a team-high 21 points. Maurice Gibbs and Jashun Spearman scored 15 each and Phillip O'Koro contributed 10.
"This was a great team win," said Carbondale coach Jim Miller. "Everyone on the floor contributed on both ends. It's special when you win your own tournament."
The Terriers have won the Class AA bracket and the "championship plus" game two years in a row now. It was NMCC's first loss of the season.
"(Carbondale) is a very solid team," said Holland. "Not only are they athletic, they're good basketball players with athletic bodies. They ran the floor well and had some good go-to players, rebounders and defenders. They're a very good team."
NMCC qualified for the bonus game by defeated DuQuoin in the Class A championship, 68-49.
Terrance Smith had the hot hand in that game, hitting two 3-pointers to lead the Eagles in scoring with 15 points. Murph, Desmond Sims and Ronland Ranson all finished with 12 each, while Tipler contributed 10.
"When the week started, our goal was to play in four games," said Holland. "It would've been nice to win all four, but we'll take the three and the experience, continuity and teamwork we got out of this tournament and go with it."
Nick Hill paced DuQuoin with 19 points.
According to the tournament seeds, NMCC overachieved in the tournament. The Eagles were seeded fifth in the Class A bracket, but dominated every opponent in the tournament, then gave the Class AA champ all it wanted in the plus game.
"I wasn't sure, but I thought we were better than a fifth seed," said Holland. "I think the kids responded to that. They wanted to show the folks here that they could play basketball, and that Southeast Missouri has solid basketball. I think they did that."
ALL TOURNAMENT TEAM: Class A -- NMCC's Dereke Tipler, Herrin's Brian Algee, Johnston City's Nick Francescon, NMCC's Brian Murph, DuQuoin's Nick Hill. Class AA - Carbondale's Jashun Spearman, Carbondale's Maurice Gibbs, Mandarin's Gibran Washington, Mt. Vernon's Dereas Moore, Mt. Vernon's Parker Creel.
MVP: Class A - NMCC's Dereke Tipler. Class AA - Carbondale's Jashun Spearman.