SIKESTON - The 30th Annual Sikeston Invitational Tournament finals produced three good games on Friday night at the Sikeston Field House.
In the championship, top-seeded New Madrid County Central won its third straight SIT title with a 62-53 win over No. 3 Poplar Bluff. No. 7 Kennett won the third place game 58-55 over No. 5 Blytheville and No. 2 Charleston took the consolation championship with a 71-65 win over fourth-seeded Sikeston.
"We're real pleased with the effort," said NMCC head coach Joby Holland, whose team improves to 4-0. "The kids were focused and ready to go. I've been looking for a more consistent effort, and tonight we got that for four quarters. It has surprised me that they've come this quick in such a short amount of time."
From the start of the championship game, it appeared as if the Eagles would rout the Mules, jumping out to a 9-0 lead.
But the Mules (5-1) fought back and kept the game in doubt until the final minute.
"We got out there early, we had some breaks going our way," said Holland. "But there was no question that (Poplar Bluff) would come back and battle us. I knew they weren't going to quit."
But in the end it was too much Dereke Tipler. The senior, with several college scouts and coaches on hand, dominated the action.
He poured in a game-high 23 points with several assists and steals.
"He's one of the best point guards I've ever seen," said Poplar Bluff head coach John David Pattillo. "He makes such good decisions and he gets so many little things done, not just passing and scoring. He gets his hands on so many balls and he gets tips. He just does it all. You're not ever going to control him, you just have to contain him somewhat and try to block those other big guys from getting too much on you."
The Mules were able to keep the NMCC forwards of Desmond Sims and Derrell Minner in check, holding them to a combined eight points, but center Ron Ranson got loose for 15 points.
And swingman Terrance Smith also provided several big baskets for the Eagles, scoring 12 points.
"Everybody's got a role to play, Dereke's role is a little bigger as far as statistics, but they all played their role and did a good job for us," said Holland. "I felt Terrance Smith did a big job for us tonight on the defensive end."
NMCC led 16-5 after one quarter of play, but the Mules, which were down 22-6 at one point, closed the gap to 27-24 by halftime when Ben Brummitt drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Despite trailing by such a large margin, Pattillo was confident in his team's ability to get back into the game.
"In all honesty I was never concerned because I thought we'd hit a shot here, or grab a rebound there -- I thought we'd be back in it," said Pattillo. "We always compete well with New Madrid -- we play some of our better basketball against them, but tonight I don't think we played great basketball."
But the Mules were playing well to start the third quarter, where they held the lead at two different points, with the last coming on Cheron Pearson's conventional three-point play with about 2:00 left to lead 39-38.
NMCC still led after three when Sims scored to make it 44-42. After that, the fourth quarter was all Eagles. The Mules never got closer than five down the stretch, as Tipler got it done from the free throw line, hitting 7-of-9.
Poplar Bluff was led by Tony Webb with 14 and Pearson with 12. Freshman Tyler Hansbrough added 10 points.
The Sikeston Bulldogs looked sharp in the first half, leading 31-26, but the Bluejays went on a 23-13 run in the third quarter to take control of the game.
The Bulldogs (3-4) still led 35-28 in the third quarter but the Bluejays (2-2) got hot, hitting nearly every shot in the period. With the score tied 42-42, Charleston freshman Ashton Farmer scored a 3-point play to give the Bluejays a 45-42 lead.
They never trailed the rest of the way.
"That's the first time that we've gotten in the flow," said Charleston head coach Danny Farmer. "I knew this game would go like this. We always have a good exciting game like this every time we play Sikeston. We were just fortunate to win it."
In the fourth quarter, Sikeston trailed just 59-58 with 2:50 left in the game, but Charleston put the game away with some stellar free throw shooting.
The Bluejays hit just 15-of-26 for the game, but they hit 11 straight in the final three minutes of the game.
"I was happy with the way we came back in the second half," said Farmer. "Right there down when it counted, my guys started making free throws and I was happy to see that."
Charleston was led by senior forward Jordy Mixon, who scored a team-high 24 points. Dontay Clark and Farmer followed up with 12 points each.
Sikeston was led by junior forward Lontas McClinton with 24 points, with 16 coming in the first half. He also had 11 rebounds.
"We wanted to play behind Lontas and try to check his shot," said Farmer. "We knew if we tried to front him we'd get blistered doing that. I was just happy he cooled down some."
Senior Justin Freeman added 20 points and Lavar Morgan had 15 for the Bulldogs.
Sikeston never got more than an eight-point lead in the game.
"I thought we played well in the first half, we had an opportunity to extend our lead to 10 or more points and we didn't get the job done and that really hurt us," said Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield. "Against a good team you've got to try to build a lead, we were in a position to do that and we didn't take care of business."
This is the first year the Bulldogs failed to win two games in their own tournament since 1996.
"We should've came out of here with at least two wins," said Holifield. "We competed, Blytheville beat us two and Charleston beat us six, but we've just got to get over the hump and put ourselves into a position to beat good teams."
The Kennett Indians were seeded seventh in the tournament, but they wiped that out with a third place win over Blytheville, Ark.
After beating No. 2 Charleston on Monday and taking No. 3 Poplar Bluff to overtime on Thursday, the Indians proved it was no fluke with Friday's win over Blytheville.
Tyree Goolsby, who hit a game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer in regulation of Thursday's game with Poplar Bluff, was the hero again, banking in a 3-pointer with four-tenths of a second remaining to knock off the Chickasaws.
"That wasn't the play that we set up when I called the timeout but that's the play that developed," said Kennett head coach Tim Turlington. "I wanted some penetration to the basket, that's what we set up. But for whatever reason, everybody kind of froze, but Tyree came up and knocked the shot down again. That's the stuff that's been happening to us."
The Indians also won a game against Portageville with a buzzer-beating shot earlier this year.
"We talked about 31 (Goolsby), he's the one that hit the last one against Poplar Bluff," said Blytheville head coach David Hixson. "We knew he could shoot it, and when he released it, I thought it was going to be in, or way off -- it just happened to catch the backboard."
The 3-pointer capped off a big night for Goolsby, who scored 14 of his game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter.
"We knew we were going to have to play really well and really hard," said Hixson. "It came down to a couple of effort plays -- they made a couple off rebounds and scored. Things like that have been our demise all season long. If we don't give the maximum effort all the time, we're just a very average basketball team."
The Chickasaws led 11-8 after one quarter, 23-22 at halftime and 39-37 entering the fourth quarter. The Chicks still led 53-50 with less than two minutes remaining, but the Indians closed the game on an 8-2 run.
Dustin Pritchett had 12 points and Julius Taylor had 10 for the Indians. Blytheville was led by Jermaine Orr and Daniel Smith with 11 points each.
"Winning's great, but I would've been just as proud of them if we'd lost," said Turlington. "This whole tournament they have battled and it's been fun to work with them. We're not a great basketball team, but this is a great team to coach. It's a great group of kids."