The key to the contest was the disparity at the free throw line for Scott Central. The Braves went 21-for-32 from the line, while Clarkton was just 3-
Coach Jason Long of Clarkton was fully aware of the difference at the charity stripe after the contest.
"I am proud of my boys for keeping their heads after what happened tonight," said Long. "Not taking anything away from Scott Central, because both teams were attacking the basket, but if you were at the game tonight, everyone saw what happened."
Clarkton responded with a 6-0 run of their own to creep back within two points, 16-14, with 1:40 left in the first. The Reindeer were led in the quarter by junior Tyler Criglar who nailed a 3-pointer on his way to nine points in the first.
Sophomore D.D. Gillespie matched Criglar in the first for the Braves, scoring eight points, including key buckets late in the quarter when Scott Central went on a 5-0 run to go up 21-14 with 50 seconds left in the first.
The Reindeer cut into the deficit by the end of the first quarter and trailed 23-19 heading into the second.
Clarkton continued their hot play to start the second quarter and went on a 5-0 run to gain their first lead of the game, 28-25 at 5:49 of the second, after Tolby Richardson hit a 3-pointer and Criglar got an offensive rebound and scored the put back.
Behind Gillespie's nine points in the second, Scott Central rallied back from the nine-point deficit, by outscoring Clarkton 11-1 to end the quarter. With the big run, the Braves led 44-43 entering halftime.
"We allowed too many easy transition baskets in the first half," said Scott Central head coach David Heeb. "We didn't get back on defense and that allowed them (Clarkton) to take it at us early."
Gillespie led Scott Central in the first half with 17 points, five rebounds and three assists. Caleb Johnson had nine points and four rebounds, while freshman Drew Thomas chipped in eight points in the half.
Criglar had a monster half scoring for Clarkton with 22 points and had four rebounds. Devaris Parker had six points and four rebounds, all offensive. With Criglar and Parker, Clarkton's bench did most of the damage in the first half. Clarkton's starting five combined to score nine total points in the half.
The Reindeer started out the second half hot, as they built a 53-49 lead by going on a 6-0 run midway through the third quarter. Scott Central rebounded late in the quarter by outscoring Clarkton 13-3 and led 62-56 with a minute to play in the third.
The third quarter burst by the Braves was fueled by 6-foot-3 sophomore Richard Brownlee, who scored 10 of his 13 points in the quarter. Scott Central went down in the paint and found Brownlee, who was usually guarded by a smaller Reindeer defender. Brownlee took advantage of the matchup and went to work in the post when Scott Central needed a spark.
"Richard brought us back in the third quarter," said Heeb. "I am so proud of the young man because he has worked so hard to get to this point and to see him help us in such a big way is very satisfying."
The Braves led 68-62 heading into the fourth quarter and seemed to be wearing down the Reindeer. Scott Central came out the gates fast in the final quarter, going on a 9-4 run to up the lead to 11 points, 77-66, with 4:30 to play. Many of the points scored by Scott Central in the fourth were on transition baskets that seemed to come in droves.
"We knew coming into the game that our guards need to match the play of Clarkton's guards," said Heeb. "I feel tonight that we won that matchup of guard play. We took it right at them and played extremely hard. The kids wanted this game badly."
Clarkton tried to fight back in the fourth and cut the lead to seven, 77-70, with 3:50 to go in the contest. The Reindeer got the Scott Central lead down to six points, 80-74 on a Steven White bucket with two minutes to play. That was as close as the Reindeer got in the final minutes of the game.
The Braves put Clarkton away on several baskets by Gillespie, Johnson and Thomas. Scott Central captured the title, 88-77 over Clarkton.
"Our kids played a great game," said Heeb. "D.D., Thomas, Chamberlain, Johnson and Owens should be commended for leading us to this win. I am so proud of the kids because when we started out this season, not much was thought of us. The kids have battled all season and tonight, their hard work paid off."
For Long, the loss was a bitter pill to take.
"I am so proud of our kids," said Long. "I am going to be honest, I would rather have the kids in our second place locker room, than the one's over there in the first place locker room. Our locker room is full of tears, the kids played their hearts out. Congratulations to Scott Central, they have a good team and I wish them good luck the rest of the way. All our boys work hard and it is a tough loss. Steven (White), Michael (White) and Mat (Trudell) are all warriors. Would like say that our freshmen and sophomores stepped up this year and have a bright future."
Criglar had a stellar game for Clarkton with 36 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. Steven White ended his high school career with 19 points, five rebounds and three steals. Michael White had three points and nine rebounds, while although held scoreless, Trudell garnered 10 rebounds and had four assists.
Gillespie led Scott Central with 25 points, led with nine assists, had six rebounds and three steals. Johnson was a monster in the paint with 19 points, 10 rebounds and had six assists. Thomas ended the night for the Braves with 16 points and had eight rebounds.
Clarkton outrebounded Scott Central 45-41 and had 16 offensive rebounds compared to eight for the Braves. Scott Central did a nice job of distributing the basketball with 20 assists, while Clarkton ended the game with 14 assists as a team. The Reindeer had 10 steals and committed 14 turnovers. Scott Central had seven steals compared to 18 turnovers.
Clarkton finishes the season at 20-5.
Scott Central (16-13) advances to the sectionals on Tuesday night at Cape Girardeau, where they will face rival Bell City. The Cubs advanced to the sectionals with a win over Oran.