(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
MAPLEWOOD -- In the track meet that was the Scott County Central and Maplewood-Richmond Heights game on Saturday afternoon the Braves crossed the finish line in first place.
Led by Otto Porter's 38 points Scott Central won a much-needed 92-86 battle with the Blue Devils just a week away from district play.
"These guys can play," Scott Central head coach Kenyon Wright said about MRH. "(They) play so hard and they do so many things well it's tough for anybody to beat them. I can't say enough about how good they are and how well coached they are. To get to play good competition at this time of the year is awesome."
Porter was the difference in the fourth quarter - and pretty much the rest of the game as well according to Maplewood head coach Corey Frazier.
"That dude does it all," Frazier said about Porter. "He's the Lebron James of bootheel basketball right now."
The junior scored 14 of his game-high total in the fourth quarter and was the answer anytime the Blue Devils threatened. Porter converted on two, 3-point plays midway through the fourth quarter as the Braves held slim 2-point and 3-point advantages.
"He does a lot of things for us," Wright said about Otto. "His size and work ethic really takes him a long way."
With senior Bobby Hatchett doing the dishing, the speedy Scott Central squad kept pace with the just as quick Blue Devils to hold on as MRH found their stroke from long distance.
Hatchett had four of his eight assists in the fourth quarter one of which to junior Trey Johnson who took on Porter's role of thwarting MRH's advances.
Two 3-pointers by Maplewood's Tony King were answered with buckets by Porter and Johnson. Johnson extended Scott Central's lead to 81-76 with an assist from Hatchett with two minutes left in the contest. A third 3-pointer from King cut it again to a 3-point lead a possession later but Johnson found an offensive rebound on the weak side to give the Braves a 5-point lead at the 1:26 mark. MRH did not come within 3-points for the remaining minute-and-a-half.
Maplewood hit five of their nine 3-pointers in the final frame in five straight Blue Devils field goals.
"They started hitting that 3-pointer," said Wright. "They made us scramble a little bit and we had to scramble a little bit better."
From the start it looked as though the Braves were going to make short work of the two-time defending Class 3 champions as they built a 15-point lead early in the second quarter with a 32-17 lead with an offensive put-back by Porter.
The Blue Devils out-scored the Braves by eight points (23-15) throughout the remainder of the quarter to trim Scott Centrals lead to seven, 47-40, at the half.
"We came out rushing some shots and I think we were a little overwhelmed with the speed of the game," Frazier said. "As far as everything else, we were right there where we needed to be. A couple of turnovers at the end that we don't make and we're in the game. But, the best team won."
Porter shot 65 percent (15-of-23) from the field and was a perfect 9-for-9 from the free throw line in the win. He also pulled down 18 rebounds.
"There's nothing you can do with him inside or out. The kid is good," Frazier said. "He's high-major. I don't care what anybody says. North Carolina, Duke, please come get this gentleman out of the bootheel. Please.
"He didn't even take a three. You get 38 points in the half-court, that's crazy."
Hatchett added a hefty 26 points on 11-of-14 from the field. He hit three 3-pointers on five attempts and also had five steals in the win.
Johnson chipped in a double-double performance with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The Braves (22-2) received a huge lift from role players such as Calvin Porter, Dominique Porter and Lamarcus Steward.
Dominique Porter and Steward added six and five points respectively while giving Scott Central extra depth at the guard position.
Calvin Porter matched Otto's 18 rebounds with 18 of his own. He added just four points but Wright said the junior is starting to come around.
"He played very well," Wright said about Calvin. "For a kid in his first year of playing and stepping up in a game like this and have 18 rebounds is big. He's really starting to come along and I hope he keeps it up.
"Those guys stepped up when they had to get in the game and scored a few buckets here and there. They did a lot of good things for us."
Maplewood (17-8) was led by Kevin Baker and Calvin Belts, Jr. who each scored 20 points apiece. Baker hit four 3-pointers.
The Blue Devils' lone senior, Bryton Hobbs who was honored before the game, chipped in 19.
After losing six of their first eight games earlier this year, the surging Blue Devils have won 15 of their last 17 games.
Frazier, a graduate of Charleston high school, said a tight game against the Scott Central Braves might be just what they need with districts in sight.
"It was a blast coaching against a team from the bootheel. That's always fun for me." Frazier said. "My biggest thing was for us to compete with a team that plays similar to us and give us some experience going into districts. We needed to see a really good team at the end of the year.
"I think we got everything we needed to out of it," he added. "I don't think we will see a team like this for the rest of the year. I don't care what Class they are."
SCOTT CENTRAL (92) -- Bobby Hatchett 26, Trey Johnson 12, Lamarcus Steward 5, Otto Porter 38, Dominique Porter 6, Bryan Freed 1, Calvin Porter 4. FG 34 FT 20-27 F 12. (3-pointers: Hatchett 3, D. Porter 1. Fouled out: none.)
MAPLEWOOD (86) -- Bryton Hobbs 19, Jake Hensel-Norman 10, Terrell Logan 8, Tony King 7, Kevin Baker 20, Calvin Belts Jr. 20, Kahlid Hagens 2. FG 32 FT 13-16 F 22. (3-pointers: Hobbs 1, Logan 2, King 2, Baker 4. Fouled out: none.)