BENTON -- Tyler Ward scored 18 points, pulled down 18 rebounds and blocked 12 shots, leading Scott City to a 64-55 win over Scott County Central in the Scott-Mississippi Conference Tournament championship game on Friday night.
"He's just a great defender around the goal," said Scott Central coach Melvin Porter. "He's got long arms that are hard to shoot over."
The 6-foot-9 senior set the tone of the game early, blocking nearly everything the Braves put up in the first quarter. His play inside allowed Scott City to jump out to a commanding 12-2 lead.
"Tyler didn't get to sit out but maybe a minute of the game," said Scott City coach Lance Amick.
"He played without foul trouble and had a triple-double. There's not much you can say. He just played like a man tonight."
Scott City's Mark Dannenmueller got into early foul trouble and sat out most of the first half.
Jeremy Schlosser made sure the Rams' offense didn't miss a beat, nailing three 3-pointers. Andy Beck also had a three, and Ward had 15 points by halftime, increasing the Rams' lead to 36-21.
"We missed some easy buckets early, and I bet (Ward) blocked every third shot we took," said Porter. "That really sends out a statement to people going into the lane. He's big, and he's going to block it if he gets close to you. He did an excellent job."
Scott Central came charging back in the second half. With Porter and former SCC coach Ronnie Cookson barking instructions from the bench, the Braves ended the third period on an 11-4 run to shave the lead down to 49-37.
"You've got Melvin and you've got a legend sitting on the bench over there," said Amick. "We've played them three times, and it's hard to beat a good team three times in the same year. Tonight, our guys were up to the challenge."
Chris Pullen scored the first basket of the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 10, but Dannenmueller quickly stole the momentum with a conventional 3-point play.
Shortly after, Pullen fouled out.
Scott Central got as close as nine, then with 1:35 left in regulation, Scott City dropped into a stall. The Braves were forced to foul and the Rams hit 4-of-6 free throws down the stretch to hold on for the 64-55 victory.
"We would press and make a run at them, then they would come back on a tear," said Porter. "I give Scott City credit. They've got some natural shooters."
Schlosser finished with 18 points for Scott City. Dannenmueller finished with 10. The Rams (12-3) will host Notre Dame on Tuesday.
For Scott Central, Daniel Holman led the way with 18 points.
"He has really come on," said Porter. "He wants his senior year to be a great year."
Jeremy Johnson and Chris Pullen each scored 10.
Andrew Pullen contributed nine. The Braves (7-10) will travel to East Prairie on Tuesday.
"I'm tickled to death with how the kids are working now," said Porter. "I've got Ronnie Cookson sitting with me, and he's trying to give them a taste of what it's like. The kids are playing hard. We just need to put it all together."