(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
GIDEON -- Sometimes the best plays aren't drawn up, they're created by clutch players. Fortunately for Risco they have a clutch player in sophomore Chris Pavy.
Trailing 70-69 with 17 seconds remaining during Thursday's Class 1, District 1 Championship game against North Pemiscot, Risco coach Brandon Blankenship called timeout to draw up a final shot.
"It's one of our sets we run," Blankenship said of the play. "Pavy comes off a screen and penetrates and takes it to the basket or we have (Brandon) Bennett in the corner. We were going to set a high ball screen but we set the screen on the wrong side."
With the play falling apart, Pavy dribbled the ball back out to the top of the key, glanced at the clock and then drove to the basket, putting up an acrobatic layup that went in with two seconds remaining, giving Risco a 71-70 lead.
"It was a set play for a screen up top," Pavy said. "We set up on the wrong side and I dribbled out and wasn't sure what to do but then I saw an open lane and went for it."
What ensued was pandemonium as players and coaches mobbed Pavy as the crowd was deafening. However there were still two seconds remaining after North Pemiscot called timeout to set up a final play.
The Mustangs inbounded the ball to Britton Wilson at halfcourt and the 6-5 senior dribbled and pulled up for a 3-pointer that was just off the mark as Risco clinched their first district title since 1994, sending players and fans spilling on to the floor in celebration.
"It's huge," Blankenship said of the win. "We got (to the district championship) last year and didn't get it done. It was big for these kids to get back here and win it."
It didn't seem like it was going to go Risco's way from the start as North Pemiscot came out hot and immediately grabbed an 11-0 lead to start the game.
"My hat's off to North Pemiscot," Blankenship said. "They have a solid club and they came out hot. This is the third time we've played them and they beat us the first two but they were close every time. I think that helped when we got down because we knew we could play with them."
"We were just trying to stay up," Pavy said of the slow start. "I knew we could come back but I didn't know if we could come back and win. Thank God we did."
Pavy scored Risco's first basket with 5:23 remaining and when the quarter ended, North Pemiscot looked to be in control with a 25-15 lead.
The Mustangs continued to pour it on in the second quarter when Bennett stepped up for the Tigers. The 6-0 senior scored 10 points in the quarter and also dished out several assists, helping Risco get the deficit back under double figures.
"I looked for teammates to help out and when I shot, I shot with confidence," Bennett said. "I was really feeling it tonight."
Trailing 43-37 in the waning seconds of the first half, Risco sophomore Luke Bixler seized momentum from North Pemiscot when he launched a halfcourt shot that went in as the buzzer sounded, exciting Tigers players and fans as the lead was reduced to 43-40.
"That (shot) was huge," Blankenship said. "It really swung momentum."
Risco came out of the locker room with new life and tied the game 46-46 on a Bennett basket with 5:02 left in the third, taking the lead 51-49 on a Bennett 3-pointer with 3:50 left in the third. Bennett finished the game with 23 points to go along with six rebounds and five assists.
"He's one of our leaders," Blankenship said. "When he is on it makes us so much better. He really stepped up tonight. We had to have him."
Risco held the lead until late in the fourth quarter when leading 69-68 with under two minutes to play, the Tigers tried to dribble out the clock with a weave offense. However, a backcourt violation led to a foul on the other end, sending Wilson to the line with 21.6 seconds left on the clock.
The senior calmly stepped to line and drained both free throws, giving the Mustangs a 70-69 lead, setting up Pavy's heroics.
"We played hard, we just couldn't get a stop when we needed it," said North Pemiscot coach Tim Eskew. "It came down to execution on defense and we didn't execute."
North Pemiscot was led in scoring by Wilson's 17 points. Dominic Bryant scored 16 points and pulled down 12 rebounds while James Macklin also scored 16 points. Lejuane Johnson added 12 points.
While Bennett led Risco with his 23 points, Pavy finished the game with 17 points and five assists and Bixler added 12 points. Zack Williams finished with eight points and eight rebounds.
Pavy and Bixler both spent most of the season splitting time between the varsity and junior varsity due to low numbers in the program.
"Both sophomores (Pavy and Bixler) have come up big for us all year long," Blankenship said. "If we had the numbers we would have had them on varsity all year long. But we kept them down so we could have a junior varsity."
"Our JV really stepped up and played well," Bennett said. "We had struggled in the tournament but we picked it up tonight. This feeling is just indescribable."
For Blankenship the win is extra special as he was a freshman on the Tigers when they won their only other district title in 1994, ironically in the Gideon gym as well.
"It means a lot to everyone," Blankenship said. "You saw how (the fans) stormed the court. I've just been blessed with some great kids."
Risco (16-10) will be back in action Tuesday night when they take on the District 2 winner at 7:45 p.m. at Poplar Bluff High School.
RISCO (71) -- Luke Bixler 12, Chris Pavy 17, Josh Long 3, Brandon Bennett 23, Jeremy Fowler 6, Zack Williams 8, Mikey Pipkins 2. FG 30, FT 3-8, F 11. (3-pointers: Bennett 4, Bixler 2, Pavy 1, Long 1. Fouled out: none).
NORTH PEMISCOT (70) -- Brandon Holloman 9, James Macklin 16, Lejuane Johnson 12, Dominic Bryant 16, Britton Wilson 17. FG 30, FT 5-10, F 14. (3-pointers: Holloman 3, Macklin 1. Fouled out: Holloman).