(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
POPLAR BLUFF -- For the first four minutes of Saturday's Class 1 quarterfinal game, it looked as if the Chadwick Cardinals could play with the heavily favored Scott County Central Braves.
A Seth Thomas 3-pointer put the Cardinals up 7-4 with 4:34 remaining in the first quarter, sending the Cardinals' fans into a frenzy. However, that excitement quickly waned as the Braves went on a 60-2 run over the next 16 minutes and easily put an end to the Cardinals season 87-36, qualifying for the state semifinals for the fourth-straight season.
"We came out and missed some shots there in the first quarter and it took us a little bit to get in the flow of it," said Scott Central coach Kenyon Wright. "The guys they know that if you come out and miss some shots you have to turn it on at the defensive end and that's where we turned it up a little bit."
Trailing 7-4, the Braves tied the game on a Stewart Johnson 3-pointer and went on to score the next 34 points, building a 41-7 lead before Thomas ended the Chadwick drought with a basket at 1:49 left in the half.
A main reason for the Scott Central dominance was the inability of Chadwick to handle the Brave pressure defense. The Cardinals turned the ball over 21 times in the first half, including 16 in the second quarter, leading to several easy layups and two thunderous dunks by Scott Central's Otto Porter.
"We had a good start," Chadwick coach Scott Payne said. "We knew coming in the key to the game was whether we could handle the ball or not. They turned up the pressure and I think we had 21 turnovers in the first half.
"Their speed and quickness was something we haven't seen all year. It bothered us and we turned the ball over a lot."
Scott Central also denied the ball to Thomas, who came into the game averaging 22 points per game. After scoring the first seven points for Chadwick, the Braves took Thomas out of the game, holding Chadwick to only five shots in the second quarter.
"I thought they denied him the ball hard in the middle," Payne said. "Our key to breaking their press was to get the ball to Seth in the middle and when they took that away our guards got bothered by that and we got rattled, got behind early and that was pretty much the game."
While Chadwick was struggling to score, Scott Central hit 12-of-23 shots in the second quarter and had numerous second and third chance opportunities. As has been the case all season, opponents key on Porter only to have him set up his teammates for easy scoring opportunities.
"Bubba is very unselfish and he is one of our best passers," said Stewart Johnson who finished with 20 points for the Braves. "When he puts us in position to score we know it is our job to score."
"I've got a very unselfish group of kids," Wright said. "They don't care who scores, as long as we win the ballgame. And that's the way you have to be if you want to have a good basketball team."
Scott Central continued their dominance in the second half, scoring the first 15 points of the third quarter, going up 64-9 before back-to-back 3-pointers by Thomas stopped the Chadwick drought.
The Braves then begin emptying the bench as they rolled to the 87-36 final, showing very little emotion as the final seconds ticked off the clock, keeping a business-like approach to the playoffs.
"This part of the year we are trying to be more focused and more serious," Johnson said. "We are just trying to get back up there and win another one for our senior year."
Otto Porter led Scott Central with 23 points while Dominique Porter added 11.
Thomas led Chadwick with a game-high 24 points, including scoring the first 15 points for the Cardinals who finished the season with a record of 20-7.
"Scott County is just unbelievable," Payne said. "I'm pretty sure they could win all five classes in Missouri, that's how good they are."
The Braves will continue their quest for a third-straight Class 1 title on Thursday when they take on Jefferson (26-3) at noon at the Mizzou Arena in Columbia.
"We're happy to be back at state," said Otto Porter. "It's real big for the seniors. It's an honor to play for Scott Central."
CHADWICK (36) -- Seth Thomas 24, Dakota Johnson 6, Jason Hull 2, Luke Johnson 2, John Peden 2. FG 14, FT 4-4, F 10. (3-pointers: Thomas 4. Fouled out: none).
SCOTT CENTRAL (87) --Tyrell Avance 2, Tevin Coleman 3, Ben Freed 2, Antonio Johnson 3, Stewart Johnson 20, Trey Johnson 4, Blake Pobst 2, Calvin Porter 4, Dominique Porter 11, Otto Porter 23, Lamarcus Steward 7, Reggie Woodson 6. FG 36, FT 11-12, F 10. (3-pointers: S. Johnson 2, A. Johnson 1. Fouled out: none).