(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
ORAN -- Oran's defense worked to perfection.
They concentrated their efforts on putting a lid on New Madrid County Central sophomore Benesha Childress, who had already burned Oran for 24 points, while trying to protect a slim, 1-point lead, 53-52, with less than 30 seconds remaining.
They did not let Childress beat them. NMCC freshman Audra Porter, however, did.
Taking on multiple defenders, Childress whipped a pass to an open Porter on the wing. Porter drained a 3-pointer to reclaim the lead, 55-53, with 25 seconds left.
"I drew a play to go to Benesha and they took it away," NMCC coach David Crockett said. "I knew they probably would, but I had Audra there ready to shoot. She's a freshman, but she stepped up with some confidence and knocked a huge shot down for us."
Following Porter's heroics, and one turnover from each team later, Oran had a chance to tie or take the lead with 17 seconds remaining. But what had hassled Oran all game -- NMCC's defense -- turned out to be the dagger that ended Oran's chances at a win.
NMCC (13-10) ended up capturing the victory, 57-53.
"I thought our press really took a lot out of them," said Crockett. "We've got a lot of bodies and I just keep putting them in there. We've got girls that know their defensive role and they play really hard on defense. When we do that, we're going to win more than we lose."
Childress, who ended up with 26 points, was a thorn in Oran's side from the opening tip. With 10 of NMCC's 17 points in the first quarter, Childress quickly got out to a strong start.
"We did exactly what we needed to do in the end," Oran coach Adam Friga said. "We gambled and let somebody else open. I wasn't disappointed with what we did at the end of the game.
"I thought we did a pretty good job on (Childress) all night. She got some putbacks on us, which she's a good rebounder too. Good players are going to score but I thought we were focused on where she was at and making her earn everything she got."
NMCC's pressure defense took it's toll as well, forcing Oran into turnovers and having to bring the ball down the floor with endless pressure berating down upon them.
Oran (10-12) committed six turnovers in the first quarter and 11 in the second. They found themselves down by just seven points at halftime, though, 28-21.
"It gave us some trouble," Friga said about NMCC's defense. "They just play really aggressive and they're relentless. I thought it also freed us up to score a lot too. We usually don't score close to 60 points in a game either.
"As much as it hurt us, it gave us some good things too."
If only by three points, Oran still managed to outscore NMCC in both the third and fourth quarters.
Led by Cheyanne King and Addie Kielhofner's six points apiece in the third, Oran opened the second half with a 9-0 run. Kielhofner tied and gave her squad their first lead of the game at 30-28.
"We didn't let them go on a big run coming out of the second half," said Friga. "Teams that play like that can go on big runs. We never let that happen."
Six lead changes followed shortly after until Childress knocked down a 3-pointer to give NMCC a lead that wouldn't be challenged until late in the fourth quarter.
Oran's Halle Woodfin went to the line twice in a 30-second span, hitting two of her given four free throws to tie it at 52-52 and give Oran a 53-52 lead. As a team, Oran was 9 of 20 from the free throw line -- 7 of 12 in the fourth quarter.
"We weren't very good from the line and that ended up being the difference for us," said Friga.
Porter's 3-pointer came in the next possession and a steal by NMCC's Aquanness Johnson caused by their suffocating defense with 17 seconds left sealed NMCC's win.
"Anytime you can get a win on the road it's good," Crockett said. "Oran's a good team. They should be tough in their district."
King led Oran's offense efforts with 18 points while Kielhofner added 11. Haley Glastetter chipped in eight.
Childress' game-high of 26 points was followed by Brittany Johnson's 12 points, including two 3-pointers. Porter ended the game with seven points.
NMCC (57) -- Brittany Johnson 12, Dallas Campbell 2, Audra Porter 7, Amirah Ruff 5, Aquanness Johnson 4, Benesha Childress 26, Whitney Williams 1. FG 25, FT 2-9, F 22. (3-pointers: B. Johnson 2, Porter 1, Ruff 1, Childress 1. Fouled out: Williams.)
ORAN (53) -- Cheyanne King 18, Haley Glastetter 8, Halle Woodfin 5, Chrissy Sauceda 8, Taylor Nenninger 3, Addie Kielhofner 11. FG 20, FT 9-20, F 9. (3-pointers: Sauceda 2, Nenninger 1, Kielhofner 1. Fouled out: none.)