(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
FARMINGTON -- When the New Madrid County Central Eagles began their season at home with the Riverbend Classic, it looked as if it could be a long season. Memphis Central handled the ball, and the Eagles, by a score of 63-
41. NMCC bounced back the following game with a victory over Byhalia, Miss. 71-61, then dropped four of their next five games.
Head coach Travis Day had no cause for concern however, as he was getting his football players adjusted to the hardcourt.
The Eagles turned the season around, winning 14 of their next 19 games to wrap up the regular season, then defeated an offensive powerhouse, Doniphan, on Wednesday night, 46-43.
Senior Josh Minner said that he doesn't think the NMCC squad has even reached it's full potential yet.
Coach Day agreed 100 percent.
"I think it's true," said Day of Minner's comment. "I told somebody, we're a very hard team to scout, because just about every other game somebody else is leading in scoring. I'm waiting on a day that we're all clicking at the same time."
Day went on to say that their recent success has proved that not one player stands out among the rest of the players wearing green and gold.
"We're not a one man show," he said. "Last night (Wednesday) Lance Price kept us in the game early. Then, Kony Ealy came on strong at the end."
Price finished with 10 points in Wednesday's contest, while Ealy led all scorers with 24 points.
The Eagles (17-10) will have to look for an all-out team-effort to put a stop to their next opponent, the Maplewood-Richmond Heights Blue Devils (25-
The Blue Devils, coached by Charleston native Corey Frazier, are fresh off of their first district title in 20 years. The last time Maplewood reached the quarterfinals was in 1988.
Headlining for the Blue Devils is stand-out, two-sport athlete Bryant Allen. Allen comes into Saturday's action with 724 points on the season, averaging 25 points per game. He carries nearly a 60 percent field goal percentage, while going nearly 56 percent from beyond the arc. According to Rivals.com, Arkansas, Missouri, Clemson, Iowa, Marquette, Saint Louis, Missouri State and Western Illinois are among schools interested in having Allen perform at the collegiate level for their programs.
"We'll have to face-guard him, and limit his touches," said Day of the Maplewood junior point guard. "The kid is just a phenomenal scorer. It's like I told the kids, we're not going to stop him, we're just going to have to limit his touches. We can't get frustrated when he does score."
In the sectional match-up against Crystal City, the 6-foot-1 Allen rattled off 30 points, as the Blue Devils downed the Hornets 71-45.
"With him it's going to be a tag-team affair," said Day on containing the left-
handed scoring threat. "We'll have two or three people after him, here, there and everywhere."
Aside from Allen, NMCC will have to match-up against Bryton Hobbs (5-10, So.), Travis Howard (5-10, Sr.) and Les Williams (6-1, Jr.).
Hobbs is the second leading scorer for Maplewood, averaging 12 points a game on over 54 percent shooting from the field. Hobbs had 14 points in the sectional contest against Crystal City.
"They're a spot-up team," said Day, commenting on the rest of the Maplewood team. "They penetrate and then kick it out with the 3-pointer. We definitely have to control the penetration."
As for the Eagle offense that has produced several late-game heroics in the past few weeks, Coach Day looks for the Blue Devil defense to be poised and ready for attack.
"They're a full-court press team," said Day. "They run a full-court man press, and they're aggressive. They'll try to trap us all over the court and score off of mistakes. We're just going to have to take care of the ball against the press."
NMCC will get a chance to break the press, as well as break back into the Final Four for the first time since 2002. Tip-off is set for 2:45 p.m. on Saturday at the Farmington Civic Center.