(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
NEW MADRID -- The rivalry match-up between the Scott County Central Braves and the New Madrid County Central Eagles got off to a slow start on Thursday night, as both teams struggled to find any rhythm early on.
Unfortunately for NMCC, the Braves found their rhythm first, going on to defeat the Eagles, 61-46.
Both teams were held scoreless for two-and-a-half minutes in the first quarter, until Mark Freed scored the first basket for the Braves on a put back at the 5:27 mark. The Braves would go on to score five more points before Dontre Jenkins nailed a 3-pointer at the 3:32 mark to put the Eagles on the board.
Both teams would sit idle at seven points apiece until Caleb Johnson made a free throw to put Scott Central ahead 8-7 at the end of the first quarter.
"It's kind of a rivalry between us two and there was a lot of intensity," Braves head coach Ronnie Cookson said. "Everybody was real tense when it first started."
After the intensity began to subside a bit, both teams traded basket-for-
basket in the second quarter. There were four lead changes during the course of the second period.
After a Kony Ealy basket put the Eagles ahead for a second time by one point, Otto Porter responded with two free throws to put the Braves back on top, 14-13, with three minutes left to go in the first half. That would be all the Braves would need as the Eagles would not regain the lead for the rest of the game.
Scott Central went up 25-18 at the break.
In the third quarter, the Eagles were outscored 15--9 to go down by 13 points going into the final quarter.
With a minute left in regulation, both sides began the substitutions as the game fell out of reach for NMCC.
"I thought they played real well," Cookson said. "We didn't shoot as well as what we usually do. But, New Madrid's got a heck of a ball club. They hustle and they work and really play hard. Coach (Day) has really got them going."
The Braves had four players record seven rebounds or more on the night.
Caleb Johnson, who led the Braves with 21 points, led in rebounds as well with 11. Drew Thomas (10) and Mark Freed (4) each recorded eight rebounds, while freshman Otto Porter (8) chipped in with seven rebounds.
The Eagles were led by Dontre Jenkins and Kony Ealy who both scored 11 points apiece. Jenkins hit both of NMCC's 3-pointers.
"I don't think we're there mentally," Eagles head coach Travis Day said. "It was a big game and I think we started out nervous and had the jitters a little bit. We went away from our game plan that we worked on all week long."
"As a coach, you try and figure everything out," said Day. "And you try and tell everybody what's going to happen and when they don't do it, you get frustrated. I think we just got frustrated and lost focus."
The Eagles (11-8) will be on the road tonight, as they will have a tough test against the Jackson Indians.
"It's one of those things where you come out of the frying pan and into the kettle," Day said about Friday's game. "That's just ball in Southeast Missouri. You can't hang your head long, you have to get back up and get ready for the next battle."
As for the Braves (18-2), they will travel to Oran to take on another Eagles team tonight as well.