(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
NEW MADRID -- The New Madrid County Central Eagles had a tough shooting night from both the floor and the free throw line.
Missed jump shots, missed layups and a 54 percent performance from the charity stripe did not help the cause against the Charleston Bluejays.
However, they still won.
"They always say if your having a bad shooting night get to the free throw line," New Madrid County Central head coach Travis Day said. "Once again, we proved that theory wrong."
The Eagles were able to slightly overcome their woes at the free throw line late in the fourth quarter and hold on for a 55-51 victory over their Class 3 rival on Friday night at New Madrid County Central High School.
With the score tied at 51 points apiece and 42 seconds left, NMCC senior Dontre Jenkins stepped up to the free throw line after Demarques McKeller had committed his fifth foul of the night.
Knowing that they had been struggling from the line, himself included, Jenkins calmly took his place at the line and sank both free throws. He gave NMCC a 53-51 lead that would eventually be enough to hold on.
"I just calmed down, focused and concentrated," Jenkins said. "Earlier in the game I missed a few so I just had to settle down and finish the game off."
Jenkins would also help seal the win after a failed possession from the Bluejays. Senior Kony Ealy got his hand in the way of a Bluejay pass that landed in the hands of Jenkins. Jenkins would insure a win with one made free throw with 5.7 seconds showing on the clock.
Jenkins and Ealy tied for a team-high 14 points. Lamonte Nelson scored eight of his nine points in the fourth quarter while playing a vital role in holding on to the victory.
Right from the opening tip things began to have the feel of a football game played on the hardwood. The game was physical and sometimes down-right chippy which had both teams in foul trouble early.
"There's a little rivalry," Jenkins said with a smile.
Charleston quickly put the Eagles in the bonus with 3:11 still showing on the clock in the first quarter. They eventually moved to the double bonus later in the same quarter.
However, NMCC could not take full advantage with their lack of successful free throw attempts but would settle for a 14-4 lead after the first period. The Eagles would return the favor, however, in the second quarter giving Charleston the double bonus with 1:09 left in the half.
"They're a lot stronger," Charleston head coach Danny Farmer said. "But, as far as playing with a lot of intensity, we're equal in that area."
The Bluejays took advantage with a 11-0 run to start the second quarter and gained enough ground to hold two, one-point leads. NMCC went into the locker room at halftime with a 23-22 lead.
"We did what we planned on doing early which was matching their intensity," Day said. "They are great at coming out of the gate and getting you down early and I thought we matched that and maybe even increased past their intensity."
Day said that the defensive game plan was mainly focused around Jones and Gregory Tucker, who have both proved that they can be game changers. They did not have that big of an affect on Jones however, who led the Bluejays with 17 points. The sophomore Tucker, who chipped in with six points, may have made the difference.
"For the most part, Tucker didn't hurt us," Day said. "We kept him in check. Deonte is one of those where he's going to get his. Our goal was to try and control those guys. Don't let those two beat us."
"They're going to try and shut him down," Farmer said about Tucker. "He's just a sophomore and now he's beginning to look like a sophomore. We're working on getting help from other people. We're going to have to get contributions from everybody."
McKeller did his best to try and fill that void with 10 points for the Bluejays. Freshman Ryan Parham, who also fouled out in the fourth quarter, chipped in with eight.
In what resembled a potential district atmosphere or a potential district championship game if they were to meet later in the year each team came away feeling that this may happen again in early March.
"What we got out of this game is that this is going to be our district rival," Farmer said. "We were on their home court and play them to the wire so, we just want to keep working and overcome that.
"I think it' a toss up. It could be a different game on a neutral court. That's what we're hoping."
"I think we showed that districts are going to be pretty good," Day said. "Between us, Charleston and Kennett and there's always someone else that could step up, it just goes to show that in Southeast Missouri, any night could be a toss up."
Each team will be back on the floor on Friday night when Charleston (5-9) hosts the Scott County Central Braves and NMCC (7-6) will host another SEMO Conference foe in the Cape Central Tigers.
CHARLESTON (51) -- Ryan Parham 8, Jerry Carter 2, Gregory Tucker 6, Deonte Jones 17, Demarques McKeller 10, Devonte Johnson 4, Fabreizio Wright 4. FG 15 FT 20-26 F 26. (3-pointers: Jones 1. Fouled out: Parham, McKeller, Wright.)
NEW MADRID (55) -- Dontre Jenkins 14, Lamonte Nelson 9, Keith Holmes 5, Jamareia Jones 2, G'Darius Stevenson 8, Kony Ealy 14, William Bledsoe 3. FG 18 FT 18-33 F 20. (3-pointers: Holmes. Fouled out: none.)