CAPE GIRARDEAU -- Minutes away from an upset of grand proportions, Notre Dame instead discovered the virtues of state champions and an all-state player.
In a hostile environment, New Madrid County Central, the two-time defending Class 3A state champion, rose to the occasion. Lifted by the late heroics of all-state senior Dereke Tipler, NMCC escaped Notre Dame High School with a 63-59 victory Tuesday.
Tipler finished with just 14 points, but strapped the Eagles on his back in the final two minutes of the game when he scored 10 of his points.
"He took over," said Notre Dame point guard Scott Wittenborn, who saw his game-high 21 points overshadowed down the stretch. "He's all-state, a natural leader and did what he needed to do."
Notre Dame (11-5) executed a patient Princeton-like offense for most of the game, leading the Eagles (12-1) by as many as 15 points in the first half.
The Bulldogs shot 67 percent in the first half primarily due to repeated lay-ins with passes to cutters in the lane. And with Tyler Cuba shadowing NMCC's all-state star for most the game, Notre Dame kept Tipler under wraps. He had four free throws in the first half, which ended with Notre Dame leading just 33-30.
"I was frustrated, but I wasn't worried about the points," Tipler said. "I was worried about the whole game."
NMCC coach Joby Holland said two state championships helped his team down the stretch.
"They have a winning mentality and a competitive nature and that really showed toward the end," Holland said. "Dereke is a very special player and he didn't have the game tonight that he normally has, and that's a tribute to Notre Dame, but at the right time he was able to do the right things."
With his team trailing 54-47 with 1:47 left, Tipler had a hand in 13 of the Eagles' final 16 points. He countered three consecutive Notre Dame scoring possessions with six points to draw the Eagles to 57-53 with 1:14 remaining. Terrance Smith then cut the lead to 57-56 on a 3-point basket at the minute mark.
Wittenborn provided the Bulldogs' final points by hitting a pair of free throws for a 59-56 advantage with 53 seconds left. The ball again went to Tipler, who was fouled and hit the front end of a one-and-one. Tipler missed his second attempt, but rebounded the miss and passed to the top of the key to teammate Tyler Wagner, who buried a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left, putting NMCC ahead for good, 60-59.
Cuba added 12 points for Notre Dame. Brian Murph and Smith each scored 13 points for NMCC.
"Not many teams can say they came down to the wire with best team in 3A, and I believe we made a statement ," Cuba said. "We'll be back."
JACKSON -- Jackson High's boys basketball team continued its string of impressive performances by destroying visiting Seckman 78-26 Tuesday night.
The Indians (9-7) were led by Lance Bollinger with 18 points, Nathan Brown with 15 and Tyler McNeely with 13. Seckman (2-11) trailed 42-16 at halftime, then Jackson pulled further away with a 16-1 third-quarter edge.
"Everybody played well for us," Jackson coach Mike Kiehne said.
DELTA -- Fourth-seeded and host Delta avenged a one-point loss to fifth-seeded East Prairie in the final first-round game of the Scott-Mississippi Conference Tournament.
Craig Bock had 24 points, Lance Kinder 18, Joey Keys 17 and Brent Menz 10 for Delta (6-10). The Eagles (3-8) got 18 points from Chris Wheatley and 16 from Matt Boyer.
In Thursday's semifinals, Delta meets top-seeded Oran while No. 2 Scott County Central plays No. 3 Scott City.
MARBLE HILL -- Eric Henry scored 21 points and Dominitrix Johnson had 13 as Bell City (13-3, 5-0) remained atop the Stoddard County Conference.
Leading Woodland (8-8, 0-3) was Luke Johnson (16 points), Michael Owens (12), Alex VanGennip (12) and Travis Benfield (11).
HERCULANEUM -- St. Vincent (6-5, 0-3) remained winless in the Jefferson County Conference, despite a game-high 31 points from Tyler Wengert. Matt Wengert added 11 points for the Indians, who rallied from a 40-28 halftime deficit to make it close.
ADVANCE -- Jared Ritter and Chris Walker each scored 17 points to lead the Hornets (10-4). Stephen McCain led the Bulldogs (0-11) with 15 points. Chad Wiseman had 11.
LEOPOLD -- Kevin Holzum scored 26 points, Josh Van de Ven 21 and Scott VanGennip 13 to pace the Wildcats (4-10). Meadow Heights (7-5) got 14 points from Joey Bell and 10 from Josh Fulton.
OAK RIDGE -- Capitalizing on free throws, Oak Ridge (6-8, 1-0) held on to defeat Marquand (6-8, 1-2) in the Mississippi Valley Conference. The Blue Jays, led by Jeff Cowan's 20 points and Clayton Ruesler's 11, went 18-of-22 from the line. Heath Stephens topped Marquand with 28 points.
IMPERIAL -- Chad Ozark (13), Andrew Meyr (12) and Jason Dreyer (11) led the Pirates (11-4, 2-0) past Windsor in a Jefferson County Conference matchup.