NEW MADRID -- New Madrid County Central ran its record to 10-1 Tuesday night, beating SEMO Conference rival Charleston 65-62 in a game that brought out the best in both teams.
Terrance Smith came through down the stretch for the No. 1 ranked Eagles, scoring nine of his 14 points in the fourth quarter. With five seconds left, the 6-foot-3 senior hit two free throws to give NMCC a three-point lead.
Charleston's Dontay Clark attempted a game-tying trey at the buzzer, but it was off its mark, giving the Eagles the victory.
"It was a great high school basketball game," said NMCC coach Joby Holland. "It could've gone either way, so obviously, we're glad to get the win. We got a good team effort out of everybody."
In NMCC's recent run of success, Charleston has been a problem. Last year the Bluejays were the only team in Southeast Missouri to beat the Eagles. Tuesday's loss is Charleston's second in the conference, making their quest to repeat that much more difficult.
"I was very concerned," said Holland. "I knew (Charleston) would get up for us. They're very talented, and I have a lot of respect for Coach (Danny) Farmer. I've known him for many years, and he does a great job with his kids. He's not weak at any position. With the rivalry, I knew we were going to get their best effort. They matched up with us athletically and they've got some really good players. All their pistons were firing."
Along with Smith, Ronland Ranson also produced late for NMCC, scoring seven of his 15 points in the final frame. He also pulled down 16 rebounds and had three steals. Center Derrell Minner finished with 15 rebounds.
"We came to win," said Charleston coach Danny Farmer. "But New Madrid is so strong on the boards. We had a gameplan, and it kept us close. We wanted to limit their offensive rebounds. (NMCC) got a whole lot of them, but they didn't get as many as they normally do. And we didn't give them as many easy buckets inside that they normally live on."
All-state point guard Dereke Tipler led all scorers with 23 points.
After a 16-16 stalemate in the first quarter, NMCC was able to outscore the Bluejays 10-8 to take a 26-24 lead at halftime.
With 3:18 left in the third quarter, Lezcano Dean hit a 3-pointer to give Charleston a 36-34 advantage. The Eagles had no answer for the 6-foot-4 southpaw, who scored a team-high 21 points.
Foul trouble forced him to miss the rest of the third frame. Charleston played well without him, but still trailed 40-39 at the end of the period.
"I was pleased, just like it was a win," said Farmer. "We played all the way to the end and had one hell of an effort. Key people were in foul trouble the whole night, but we didn't quit. We're gelling together as a team. We've come a long way since the beginning of the season, and we're still without Jemorrio Betts. We're working our way to the end -- when it really counts."
NMCC looked to pull away with a seven-point lead midway through the final period after Charleston center Kewain Gant and Dean both fouled out.
But Dontay Clark threw the Bluejays right back into the fire with back-to-back 3-pointers with under a minute left in regulation. He finished with 13 points.
"That was big-time," said Farmer. "He had just come in for Lezcano, and he stepped it up and did what had to be done. I'm going to be expecting that out of him all the time now."
Charleston sent Tipler and Terrance Smith to the foul line six times in the final seconds, and the NMCC duo capitalized on five of the trips.
Deshaundry Hamilton and Tiyez Whitney were also able to hit free throws late to keep Charleston in striking distance, setting up Clark's final shot.
The Bluejays' winning streak stops at five games.
"Close games like this one builds character," said Farmer.
"You learn how to react in close-game situations. We did a super job tonight, hitting some big buckets at the end. Every time we come here, it's either a three or two-point game. We're ready to play when we play them."
Charleston (8-5) will host Scott Central on Friday while NMCC (10-1) hosts Cape Central.
"If the team is going to go anywhere on down the road, whether it be in the district or state playoffs, you've got to be able to handle close ballgames," said Holland. "You've got to have games like this one to know how to respond to them later."