The third-seeded South Pemiscot Bulldogs gave the top-seeded Portageville Bulldogs all they could handle Friday in the finals of the Bootheel Conference Tournament.
Portageville (16-3) outlasted South Pemiscot 56-51 to avenge an earlier season defeat to the Bulldogs that cost them sole possession of the conference championship.
Defense was the name of the game for Portageville in the second half, limiting South Pemiscot to only seven field goals.
Portageville used its high-low offensive game-plan to break open a 13-point advantage in the second half, however, good teams always have one final spark.
The defensive intensity picked up for South Pemiscot (15-4) as guards Anthony Jones and Anthony Patton quickly got the Bulldogs back in the game.
Jones converted a pair of pivotal foul shots then picked the pocket of Portageville's Willie Hassell and found Patton for an old-fashioned three-point play that trimmed the lead to 52-45 with 2:45 showing on the clock.
Chris Moore's defense held Portageville over four minutes in the fourth quarter without a point. As a result, Chance Rucker cut the lead to 52-51 with 23 second left with a critical offensive stickback.
Jones was whistled for a flagrant foul on Portageville Antonio Scott, which turned out to be the difference in the game.
Scott nailed 1-of-2 attempts from the line and Portageville's Jordan Penn sealed the game on the next play.
Penn slipped past his defender for a back-door lay-up to give the Bulldogs an important two-possession lead.
Penn showed a lot of heart for the Bulldogs in the contest and stepped up in Portageville's time of need.
With leading scorer Hassell on the bench for most of the second quarter, Penn netted eight crucial points in the period with some important rebounds as well.
Penn led all scores in the contest with 21 and finished with 11 rebounds in the process.
Hassell was controlled for the majority of the game, nevertheless, ended the game with 11 points.
Jones paced the way for South Pemiscot with 14 while Rucker and Jessie Brock chipped in 12 each, respectively.
Hassell and Jimmy Larry each added crucial threes from the top of the key to end the third quarter with Portageville leading 44-36.
Portageville head coach Jim Bidewell spoke about his team's stumble in the fourth quarter.
"I told them in one of the time-outs that this is what they did last night and they (South Pemiscot) are not going to quit." Bidewell said. "They are not going to give up and we just got out there and got real careless with the basketball. Instead of getting down and getting serious with it, we just picked it up."
Bidewell knew that South Pemiscot would be a tough matchup for his kids.
"Overall I was proud of our kids," Bidewell said. "We fought hard, but you have got to give South Pem a lot of credit. If they stay together then the sky is the limit for them."
Something uncharacteristic of both teams in the contest was the turnover statistic. Portageville ended the game with 19 turnovers while South Pemiscot threw the ball away on 17 different occasions.
Playing Caruthersville the night before, took a toll out of South Pemiscot according to Bidewell.
"We had our legs, they kind of lost their legs the night before," Bidewell said. "I think it showed there in the very end in their shots. If they had been fresh, it might have been a different story. He (Penn) played good defense and we got some good minutes out of our bench. We have got a lot of work to do, but it was a good win for us."
Without depth, South Pemiscot must stay in outstanding physical shape.
"I am sure that (being tired) might have had a little bit to do with it," South Pemiscot head coach Chris Moore said. "But we were ready to play in the championship ballgame. We knew we had an outstanding Portageville team to play and maybe their in the third or fourth quarter we looked a little tired, a lot of that was Portageville. They are a very good basketball team. I am extremely proud of our kids, we were right there the whole way. We got down 13, battled back and we had a chance there at the end, but just had a few bad breaks."
Portageville made some back-door cuts early in the contest and Moore spoke about their offensive play.
"If you can guard them (Portageville), you can guard anybody," Moore said. "We couldn't take away everything they were doing -- they do a very good job of reading what the defense gives them and they adjust. You just have to give them credit, they ran their offense and motion very well."
Overall, Moore was satisfied with his team's effort.
"This is nothing to be ashamed of," Moore said. "I think if you talk to most people in the Bootheel area -- especially since the beginning of the year, we are a total surprise. For our kids to come out here and compete with two top teams in Class 3A on consecutive nights, I can't say enough about them. I am extremely proud of my young men."