(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
POPLAR BLUFF -- They have been excited ever since sophomore Chris Pavy hit the game-winning shot against the North Pemiscot Mustangs on Friday night.
It was a shot that lifted them to the Class 1, District 1 title and it was a shot that has the Risco Tigers wandering into the world of playoff basketball for the first time since 1994.
Risco will play in their first Class 1 sectional game in 16 years tonight at Poplar Bluff High School. Pavy's shot with just two seconds remaining on a broken play, gave the Tigers a 71-70 win against the top seeded Mustangs and may possibly be the biggest shot ever in Risco history.
"The kids have just been pumped up," Risco head coach Brandon Blankenship said. "Really, ever since Pavy made that shot. The community and the school has just been through the roof. It's been awesome."
Although they are riding high for their upset win, their next opponent will be just as challenging.
The Dora Falcons (19-9) are the District 2 champions who defeated Eminence 62-47. They are led by 6-2 junior Jacob Pardo who averages 15.7 points per game as well as 8.6 rebounds a game. They also rely on 11.1 points per game from Dillian Collins, a 6-1 junior.
"Pardo is an athlete," Blankenship said. "They have a couple of shooters and they play a little more physical style. They're a solid club. I don't think they're as big as North Pemiscot but, they just do things well. We're just going to have to be ready."
Blankenship said that the Falcons like to do things mostly in the halfcourt. With their size, they are able to spread out most zones they employee.
"They played a lot of 1-3-1," said Blankenship. "With their size, again they aren't huge, but they were able to spread that out a bit. They switched things up fairly well. We have to be ready for a lot of things."
Beating that style will require Risco to force them away from their zone defense. Getting out and pushing the tempo will be key for the Tigers.
"I think we're a little quicker than they are," Blankenship said. "We want to try and get out and push. We want to make it our tempo and speed it up. They didn't seem to want to do a lot of stuff fullcourt. We want to get out and run."
Something else that will be a huge lift for the Tigers will be the return of senior Ross Carter.
"It will be a big emotional lift for us and it fills a big role for us off the bench," Blankenship said about the return of Carter.
In the Tiger's first district tournament game against Naylor, Carter collided with a teammate going for a rebound and landed flat on his back. Symptoms from his fall included a bit of numbness in his legs. Doctor's visits indicated he experienced deep bruising, inflammation and swelling from his injury.
"Today (Monday) he just looked tons better," said Blankenship. "He probably won't be back in the starting lineup yet, but he will definitely be a factor coming off of the bench."
The sectional game is scheduled to start at 7:45 p.m.
The free-shooting St. Elizabeth Hornets will be the Scott County Central Braves next obstacle in their journey to a second consecutive state championship.
The Braves defeated the Hornets last year in the exact same round, 105-77.
St. Elizabeth (18-8) were a combined 12-of-31 from behind the arc in last years game. They were 7-of-14 in the first half and 5-of-17 in the second after a switch in defense led to the Braves pulling away.
"They still shoot the ball well," Scott Central head coach Kenyon Wright said. "They have three or four kids that can get in the game and shoot the ball. They work it around and have a kid inside that's pretty good."
6-0 junior Caleb Heckemeyer leads the Hornets with 21.6 points per game. Wright said Heckemeyer will be a difficult assignment for the Braves to control.
"He was good last year but he's a whole lot better this year," said Wright. "He's a really good guard. He gets after it and he plays good defense. He takes care of the basketball. He'll be tough to stop for sure."
Sophomore Ryan Loethen and senior Evan Bax chip in with 12.5 and 11.1 points per game as well. Bax also adds 6.1 rebounds a game as well.
"The kids have to be ready to play every game," said Wright. "You go out and not play for a quarter you can get beat. Especially against a team like St. Elizabeth."
When: 7:45 p.m. today at Poplar Bluff High School
* Record: 19-9
* Coach: Rick Luna
* Key players: Jacob Pardo, 6-2, jr.; averages 15.7 points per game as well as 8.6 rebounds per game. Dillan Collins, 6-1, jr.; averages 11.1 ppg and 4.8 rebounds per game. Justin Von Allmen, 5-11, jr.; 8.4 points a game as well as 5.5 rebounds.
When: 7:45 p.m. today at Park Hills Central High School
About ST. ELIZABETH:
* Record: 18-8
* Coach: Jason Ollison
* Key players: Caleb Heckemeyer, 6-0, jr.; Heckemeyer leads the Hornets with 21.6 points per game, 5.5 assists per game and 4.4 steals per game. Ryan Loethen, 6-1, soph.; averages 12.5 points a game. Evan Bax, 6-1, sr.; Bax adds 11.1 points per game as well as 6.1 rebounds.