(Photos by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- The No. 4 seed Notre Dame Bulldogs were able to edge out the No. 5 seed Charleston Bluejays 52-50 on Monday night as the Bulldogs handed the Bluejays their first loss in the SEMO Conference tournament since it started again in 2006.
Notre Dame held a slim 3-point lead after the first three quarters of play, but the Bluejays were able to eclipse the Bulldogs lead twice and hold a 3-point lead of their own late in the fourth quarter.
After Akeem Sharp put Charleston ahead by one point, 46-45, Jeremy Spencer was able to drive the lane and score two more points to put the Bluejays up 48-45 with a little less than three minutes left in the game.
During Charleston's next possession, the Bluejays had a couple of opportunities to take the lead but their shots were just not falling.
"We've got to shoot it a little bit better when we have the opportunity," Charleston head coach Danny Farmer. "We missed some open shots when we could have put them away. We had a chance to go up with about three minutes left and we had two good open looks and we missed those shots. But, we can correct that also."
Jacob Tolbert pulled the Bulldogs to within one again and moments later Jon Unterreiner hit one of his two free throws to tie the game at 48 a piece. After Charleston turned the ball over, Tolbert was fouled and sent to the line with 51 seconds left and was able to hit both free throws to give Notre Dame the lead for good.
"We had the momentum and turned it over," Farmer said about the fourth quarter. "And that gave them the momentum. We fouled them a few times, but their not going to miss any free throws."
Notre Dame was a stellar 17-19 from the charity stripe which proved to be the game winner down the stretch.
Donald Dixon led the Bluejays with 18 points. Deonte Jones chipped in with 12 points as well.
Notre Dame was led by Austin Greer's 13 points. Tolbert scored 12 and grabbed six rebounds while Unterreiner added 10 points, seven rebounds and five steals.
Charleston (1-3) will face Cape Central tonight at 7:30 in the consolation semifinals.
"We kept putting pressure on them and started wearing them down," NMCC head coach Travis Day said about the second half. "And that's what we want to do to teams. We started running our offense. We started being more patient and settling for the good shot instead of just the first shot. And that's what a good team's got to do all the time.
"The biggest thing we've got to do, we've got to put four quarters together right now."
Dexter held a 9-7 lead after the first quarter but the Eagles benefited from some of the Bearcats 13 turnovers in the first half to go on and outscore them 18-12 in the second quarter and would never relinquish the lead.
"We just gave up too many easy baskets early," Day said. "We didn't come out intense. As the game got along we got more intense and started being us. When we started being us I think that's when we started pulling away."
Kony Ealy led all scorers with 25 points and pulled down nine rebounds. He also shot 9-12 from the charity stripe. Josh Minner added 13 points to the total and had seven rebounds while Dontre Jenkins chipped in with 11 points and five steals as well.
Alan Flannigan and Jon Bowman each had 14 points to lead the Bearcats in scoring. Flannigan also had three blocks as well.
NMCC (3-1) will play the winner of tonight's match-up between Poplar Bluff and Jackson on Thursday at 8:30 p.m., while Dexter (0-3) will face the loser of that same game in the consolation semi-finals also on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.