(Photos by Josh Mills, Staff)
NEW MADRID--The New Madrid County Central Eagles basketball team won it's fourth straight game on Tuesday night, as they handed the Charleston Bluejays their second straight loss by a score of 52-47.
The final score in no way indicated the first three quarters, as the Eagles led by as many as 12 throughout the game. But, a late Charleston push put the Bluejays closer to the driver's seat, as they eventually battled back to pull within two points late in fourth quarter.
Charleston trailed by three after the first quarter of play, as Kony Ealy and Lance Price led the NMCC squad to the early lead, 14-11. Ealy and Price each scored six points in the opening quarter of play.
The Eagles' plan to contain Antonio Riggens and Jerquawn Sherrell worked out perfectly in the first half, as the two combined for just 10 points going into the break, with five points apiece for the visiting Bluejays.
Price and Ealy led the Eagles in scoring at the halfway mark, with six apiece.
The third quarter was no different for NMCC as they maintained their nine point lead, behind the scoring of Price, Ealy and Josh Minner. Their steady offensive flow and the constant defensive pressure on Riggens and Sherrell seemed to take the wind out of the Bluejay sails, as the home-team Eagles led after three 43-43.
In the fourth quarter, the game heated up, with a tough battle between Charleston's Brian Parham and NMCC's Kony Ealy down in the low post, as each played tremendous defense on each other, as well as any player who stepped into the paint.
Parham and Ealy each came away with huge blocks and rebounds to aid their club in the final quarter, but Parham, combined with Donald Dixon for the Bluejays, recorded four points, along with Dixon's four to make a late push towards the lead.
Charleston eventually pulled within two points, with 1:04 left to play, and with the score set at 49-47, NMCC head coach Travis Day called a quick timeout to get his team back on track.
After the break, the Eagles held onto the lead, and added three more points off of a clutch Ealy free-throw and an easy Minner basket down low, to hold on for the victory, 52-47.
For the Bluejays, Riggens finished with eight points, while Sherrell doubled his first half, to end with 10 points. Parham led all scorers for Charleston, with 15 points, while going 4-for-5 at the free-throw line.
Dixon also added 10 points in the loss.
NMCC was led by Ealy and Price, who finished with 12 points apiece. Ealy was 4-for-8 at the line, while Price's points came off of six field goals.
"We came out and we played good," Ealy said. "We got tired in the fourth quarter, but our coaches did a great job (tonight). It was a physical game."
Day had nothing but praise for his team, who fought hard all night long, and maintained their composure late in the game to hold on for the win.
"First and foremost as a coach, I'm proud of our effort," Day said. "We didn't finish the end like we wanted to, but, we're getting used to this winning thing."
"We haven't been there in a long time," he added. "Every game is a learning experience for us. As far as effort, and trying to initiate a game plan, I thought we did that."
The win marks the fourth consecutive win for NMCC, as they improve their record to 7-6.
Charleston's record now sits at 10-5 after the loss, but Farmer said his squad will take away positives in every loss that they are handed.
"I thought both teams played hard," Farmer said. "I have to take my hat off to (NMCC). I thought they played great, but I was proud of our team with their effort."
Both teams will be back in action on Friday evening, on their own home courts, as the Bluejays play host to the Scott Central Braves, while NMCC welcomes in the Cape Central Tigers. Both will feature junior varsity action at 6 p.m. with varsity action following.