(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
POPLAR BLUFF -- After a mere one minute and 45 seconds ran off of the clock in the first quarter the Scott County Central Braves punched their ticket to their third final four in as many years.
The Braves quickly gained a 10-0 lead over the Risco Tigers that did nothing but set the tone for their 100-53 win on Saturday afternoon at the Bess Activity Center on the campus of Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff during their Class 1 quarterfinal game.
"They come out with a lot of intensity," Risco head coach Brandon Blankenship said about Scott Central. "It's so hard to prepare for what they're going to come out with. That's why they've been number one all year. They've done that to better teams than what we are."
Scott Central (27-2) will play Dadeville (29-1) in the semifinals at 6:40 p.m. at the Hearnes Center in Columbia.
"They spent all their time last summer working in the gym," Scott Central head coach Kenyon Wright said about their return trip. "Every waking minute they have had they've been in that gym working to get back up there again."
An offense rebound and a putback by junior Calvin Porter got things rolling for the Braves to begin the game. A three-point play by junior standout Otto Porter, a bucket by senior standout Bobby Hatchett and a 3-pointer by junior Trey Johnson had the Braves up 10-0 in the blink of an eye.
Chris Pavy scored Risco's first points with a reverse layup just under two minutes into the game. After that, however, the Braves put together a 19-1 run in less than five minutes time to sternly impose their will.
Scott Central was up 31-5 at the end of the first quarter.
Nine turnovers by Risco in the first quarter was the beginning of their slide.Most were forced by the Braves' full-court press which allowed less than 10 Tiger offensive possessions to make it past center-court.
"Their press is the best we've ever played against," Risco senior Brandon Bennett said, who led the Tigers with 14 points. "Probably the best one around in Missouri. We were trying to get it to the middle. We tried to get it down on our side, which is super tough."
Otto Porter, who finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds, scored 11 points in the first quarter while Hatchett added nine. Hatchett, who scored nine points in each of the first three quarters and led the Braves with a game-high 27 points, had three of his seven total steals in the first quarter. All but one led to points for the Braves.
Although faced with an almost impossible comeback situation after the first quarter, Risco (17-11) did not give in. They played eight points behind the defending state champions in the second quarter, and were outscored 29-21.
"I was really proud of us in the second quarter," said Blankenship. "Being down 26 after the first quarter, we probably had our best quarter after that. We didn't quit. We kept battling and kept pushing even though we were down big."
The 3-point line, which had been kind to the Tigers throughout the season, began to pay it's due. Sophomore Luke Bixler knocked down two 3-pointers while Bennett and sophomore Chris Pavy added one apiece as well.
However, the Braves still went into halftime with a 60-26 lead. Hatchett led his squad with 18 points and six steals at the break while Otto Porter added 17 points and eight rebounds.
"They are definitely D-1 material," Bennett said about Hatchett and Otto Porter. "Bobby he can pull up anywhere and knock it down. Otto is so hard to guard. They knock down everything."
After being outscored 27-15 in the third quarter, it all but sealed each teams fate. Bixler was the Tigers' second leading scorer with 12 points. Senior Zach Williams chipped in eight.
Despite losing rather handedly to one of the top teams in Missouri in their last game of the year, the Risco Tigers had a season to remember.
They claimed their first district title since 1994, won the first ever sectional game in school history over Dora, placed second in the Tri-County Conference tournament after a loss to North Pemiscot and finished second in the Clarkton Holiday Tournament after a loss to a significantly larger Gosnell, Ark. club.
"The whole year has been a journey," Blankenship said. "This is one of the first years where we were peaking at the right time. We were hitting our stride about two weeks before the end of the season and it paid off."
The Tigers will be saying goodbye to six seniors who have been a huge part of the recent turnaround in Risco; Bennett, Williams, Ross Carter, Josh Long, Justin Earnheart and Mikey Pipkins.
"I've had them ever since they were in the fifth grade," Blankenship said. "They've had success along the way, although not this much success. It was great for them to go out on top with a district title and a win in the sectional game. They've been a huge part of our program."
RISCO (53) -- Luke Bixler 12, Chris Pavy 7, Josh Long 5, Ross Carter 4, Brandon Bennett 14, Jeremy Fowler 3, Zach Williams 8. FG 20 FT 7-11 F 18. (3-pointers: Bixler 2, Pavy 1, Long 1, Bennett 2. Fouled out: Williams.)
SCOTT CENTRAL (100) -- Bobby Hatchett 27, Trey Johnson 9, Reggie Woodson 9, Lamarcus Steward 5, Otto Porter 19, Dominique Porter 12, Bryan Freed 8, Calvin Porter 8, John Rhoden 3. FG 40 FT 18-23 F 15. (3-pointers: Johnson 1, D. Porter 1. Fouled out: none.)