NEW MADRID -- The New Madrid County Central Lady Eagles started fast then faded in a 50-33 loss to the Poplar Bluff Lady Mules on Thursday.
The two teams, appearing evenly matched, traded baskets early on the way to a tie at 10 about midway of the first quarter in the SEMO Conference matchup.
Then the Eagles committed five straight turnovers, without a shot attempt, as the Mules crept ahead 14-10 for the first-quarter lead.
"We have a tendency, when they get up a couple of buckets on us, instead of fighting back we put our heads down," said NMCC coach Lance Tollison. "That cost us because we had a prime opportunity to be competitive against this team."
NMCC, 6-9 overall and winless in the conference at 0-5, stayed close through the first couple of minutes of the second quarter, pulling to within two at 16-14. Another rash of Eagle turnovers -- four straight -- propelled the Mules to a 21-14 advantage.
A 5-2 Eagle run closed the gap to 23-19 before the Mules ran off five unanswered points to take a 28-19 halftime lead.
The Eagles struggled to find any offense against Poplar Bluff's zone defense and their leading scorer, freshman Shameika Williams, never found a rhythm. Williams, a better open-court player at this stage of her development, finished with just six points.
Senior Heavenly Wren paced the Eagles with 11 points and junior Paige Jimerson added seven.
"The zone frustrates us," said Tollison. "If they pack a good zone, that slows us down because we like to put up about 50-60 points (per game). We really could never get into the flow of our fastbreak offense."
The Mules (6-9, 1-2) began to pull away in the third quarter, extending the lead to 44-29, then, while milking the lead and the clock, outscored the Eagles 6-4 in the final quarter.
Poplar Bluff's Caroline Fister led all scorers with 24 points.
While looking lethargic at times, the Eagles' effort disappointed Tollison.
"When we played Jackson the other night (a 74-46 loss), I thought we gave an outstanding effort," he said, "but it (effort) wasn't there tonight. I can't pinpoint why."
Poplar Bluff completed the sweep with a 33-29 win in the junior varsity contest.
Tameika Williams scored 12 points and JoAnna McDaniel six to lead the Lady Eagles.
NMCC visits conference foe Charleston on Thursday.