No. 3-seed Oran defeated the second-seed Reindeer, 83-74 in a Class 1, District 1 semifinal on Tuesday.
The victory sets up a much-anticipated rematch with the Scott County Central Braves in Thursday's district final.
"(After) the first game of the year way back in November against Scott Central, we circled this day because we wanted them in the district final," said Oran's first-year coach Denver Stuckey. "We're there and we wanted to be there so we'll give it our best effort. You can't win unless you're there."
In two previous meetings, the Eagles lost by narrow margins -- six and three points -- to Scott Central, the district's top seed and Class 1's sixth-ranked team.
But, to reach the final, Oran had to survive a tough, hard-fought contest against Clarkton, ranked fourth in the latest Missouri Class 1 poll.
Oran (16-11) used its size and physicality to great advantage to outmuscle smaller Clarkton in the paint. The Eagles got 46 points from its inside players, Robert Lange (16), Chase Seyer (16), Chris Asmus (10) and Hunter Glastetter (4), and outrebounded the Reindeer 36-16.
"After last night's game, I've been preaching that we had to hit the boards even harder than last night (a 50-rebound game against sixth-seed Gideon)," said Stuckey. "And even harder on Thursday night because Scott Central is one of the best rebounding teams in the state."
Clarkton coach Jason Long said, "We knew that (Oran's size) was going to be a problem, but, honestly, we didn't anticipate it being that big of a problem. They were able to take advantage of the situation."
In a back-and-forth first quarter, the Eagles took their biggest lead at 22-16 but Clarkton hit two 3's in the closing minute to tie the score at 22. Then Steven Mock scored on a putback of his own miss to give the Eagles the first-
quarter edge at 24-22.
Lange, the Eagles' 6-foot-3 junior post, set the tone with eight first-quarter points and a handful of rebounds.
With the score favoring the Eagles at 32-30 in the second quarter, they went on 15-6 run to pull ahead 47-36 at the half.
Oran extended its lead to 19 -- the game's widest margin -- in the third quarter but saw the Reindeer chip away in the closing minutes to pull within 14, 65-51, as the third period expired.
Clarkton, a strong 3-point shooting team, was primed to make a run at the Eagles.
"We dug ourselves a hole but there wasn't any question in my mind that we wouldn't fight back," said Long. "I'm so proud of the fight they had. They fought like true champions."
A quick 8-0 spurt, keyed by sharpshooter Dustin Ferguson's two treys, cut the lead to seven at 65-58. Ferguson scored 12 of his game-high 33 points, which included five 3-pointers, in the fourth quarter.
A Glastetter basket, a Cody Romas' free throw and a steal and basket by Asmus offset a Clarkton bucket to lift the Eagles to a 70-60 lead with about 5 minutes to go.
But back roared Clarkton with a 2-pointer followed by Ferguson's circus shot to start a conventional 3-point play. A Clarkton free throw sliced the lead to 70-66 with 4:35 to go.
The fourth quarter in tight ballgames is usually Kody Campbell time. The Eagles' junior guard and best free-throw shooter stepped up again, hitting 7-
of-8 in the quarter to help fend off the Reindeer.
On the evening, Campbell went 13-of-18 from the stripe and led the Eagles with 22 points.
Campbell's three consecutive free-throw points gave the Eagles a little breathing room at 73-66, but, with the score at 74-68, the Reindeer responded with four straight points to close to 74-72.
They got no closer as Mock hit a turnaround one-hander in the lane, Seyer scored an inside bucket and Campbell swished four straight clutch free throws to send the Eagles up 82-74. The 9-2 run, completed on Seyer's single free throw, sealed the win.
"When it got a little out of hand there for a while, I was really proud of the way they kept focused on the game," Stuckey said. "That was a problem for us earlier in the year and, like whipping a dead horse, I kept telling them that they couldn't let it get to them. They could have panicked and folded when they started to come back, but, for the most part, they stayed calm and they won."
Added Stuckey, "That was fun to be a part of. I'm so glad for our kids because we've had some hard-fought games and come up short on most of them this year. I would have hated to have had to say goodbye to our seniors on a game like that."
Oran and Scott Central tip off the final at 8 p.m. on Thursday.