(Photos by Andrew Powell, Staff)
COLUMBIA -- It was one of the most anticipated match-ups throughout the 2008 MSHSAA Show-Me Showdown. It was one of the most anticipated match-ups throughout Class 1. It was even one of the most anticipated match-ups throughout the state of Missouri.
The Mizzou Arena was the site that held the semifinals game between the Scott County Central Braves and the two-time defending Class 1 champion Jefferson Eagles.
A height advantage and the charity stripe propelled the experienced Jefferson team to a thrilling 70-68 win over the Scott Central Braves.
"Jefferson's got a good ball club," Braves head coach Ronnie Cookson said. "We had our chances to get back in it there and things just didn't work out right. I thought our kids played hard and I thought Jefferson played hard."
The next two Braves possessions were where the height of the Eagles really came into play.
Thomas drove into the lane to try and give the Braves back the lead but Archer was under the goal waiting with a block that fell into Craig Matson's hands. Matson's outlet pass to a wide open Kyle Schieber gave Jefferson a 69-66 lead with only 43 seconds left.
Schieber was Jefferson's second leading scorer with 17 points.
"That was huge," Archer said about the block. "We preach and preach all year about defense. Defense wins games, defense does everything for us and that just proved it right there."
The Braves next possession was halted again by Archer after Caleb Johnson grabbed two offensive rebounds. The first board was off of a D.D. Gillespie missed 3-pointer and the second was from his own missed shot. Johnson's second shot was blocked by Archer that went dribbling out of bounds.
After coming back from a timeout, Thomas tried to tie the game with a 3-
pointer but was off the mark. Freshman Otto Porter, who finished with six points and six rebounds, scooped up the offensive rebound and put it back up to pull the Braves to within one, 69-68, with 10 seconds left on the clock.
The inbounds pass to Matson was quickly jumped on by Thomas who stopped the clock with a foul to put Matson on the line shooting two with seven seconds remaining.
Matson hit the first free throw but missed his second. Johnson, who ended up with 15 points, pulled down his tenth rebound on the night and quickly called timeout.
With six seconds showing on the clock, Porter made the inbounds pass to Gillespie. Gillespie then jolted past the Jefferson press all the way to the rim for the tie, but was fouled on his shot with only one second remaining and the Braves down 70-68.
Gillespie, very calmly, stepped to the line and took a long look towards the basket. He set himself, and then took his shot. It banked off the rim. Gillespie then set up for his second attempt, which was purposely missed to try and give the Braves a chance to tie the game with a rebound and a putback. But, the rebound was ensnared by Matson who held on to the ball as the final buzzer sounded.
"D.D. really feels bad about missing the two free throws but that's just the way it goes," Cookson said. "Anybody could miss free throws. It's just a ball game. Maybe next time the ball bounces the other direction."
Gillespie was the Braves second leading scorer with 18 points and dished out five assists.
Matson, who grabbed the game-winning rebound, finished with a team-high of 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
"I just knew at that point of the game all we needed to do was get that rebound," Matson said. "I knew our bigs were going to block out and it was just my job to go get the ball if it came off. So, whenever I grabbed it I was just making sure nobody else came from behind to get it and I was just holding on to it for dear life."
The exhilarating fourth quarter was set up by an impressive lift from Thomas. Thomas, who was 3-12 from the field during the first half, went a perfect 6-
6 from the field, with one free throw, scoring 13 points in the last four minutes of the third quarter.
"I just tried to take on another role that D.D. and Bobby had and pick up their slack," Thomas said. "Coach Mac (Braves assistant coach Lennies McFerren, Jr.) told me to just relax and go to the hole a little bit and put it off the glass and that's what I tried to do."
Both Gillespie and Bobby Hatchett picked up their fourth foul during the third quarter. Thomas capped off his stellar third quarter performance with a buzzer-beating jumper to give Scott Central a 56-52 lead.
"Drew picked up the pace and got to taking his game shots and got to shooting a little better," Cookson continued while smiling, "He should have done that in the first quarter."
Thomas finished with a team-high of 21 points. Thomas, Johnson and Porter played all 32 minutes of the game.
Jefferson had no problem in moving the ball through the Braves pressure defense for the most part of the first half, especially the first quarter.
"I think more than anything it was just great for us to get off to that good a start," Eagles head coach Tim Jermain said. "I don't think they changed a whole lot of what they were doing. When we shot well there early, I think that did a lot for our confidence."
The ball movement by the Eagles in the first led to a 7-0 run to open up the contest and an eventual 23-13 lead after one quarter of play.
"They were hot and they played well," Cookson said about Jefferson's hot start. "They had all the rolls off the glass, everything. It's hard to stop something like that."
While, the newcomers to the big stage could not seem to get anything to fall.
"We didn't come out playing like we usually do," Cookson said. "We come out a little bit scared and it got us in a hole there early. When we caught up with them, we couldn't continue. The kids worked hard, I'm proud of them. Third or fourth ain't bad in the state."
With this semifinal loss, Scott Central (27-3) finds itself in a place it has never seen before; playing for third place. In all of Cookson and Company trips to the Show-Me Showdown, the Braves have never played for a third place finish.
The third place game was played today at 10:40 a.m. against Fair Play.