(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
ORAN -- For the fourth-straight year the Scott County Central Braves hoisted the Oran Invitational Tournament trophy after defeating the Advance Hornets 85-64 on Friday night.
Unlike their previous three, however, this year's title game was a lot closer than the 21-point margin of victory indicated.
The Braves, who are well-known for blowing out opponents left and right, found themselves in a much tighter game than they are used to when it comes to their previous OIT competition during the last three seasons.
"We knew what we were coming into," Scott Central senior Dominique Porter said about keeping their confidence up when facing a tough game. "A lot of stuff wasn't going to go our way. We just have to not get frustrated and not get down and come together as a team."
Obviously, the absence of Otto Porter, now a freshman with the Georgetown Hoyas, has a lot to do with the Braves and their total domination of opponents, but what differentiates this team from years prior is having to rely more on fundamentals and will than the superior talents of one player.
Especially since the Braves lack size, which is where the 6-9 Porter fit in nicely.
"It's about heart," Wright said. "You get out there and they have a post player that's dominating. we're tough enough and we have a big enough heart to keep ourselves in the game. My kids keep their minds and their focus on the fundamentals of basketball, which is the boxing out and the rebounding."
Advance had a slight height advantage against the Braves, but Wright was quick to point out that one player in particular stood out and did his job. He said it was a prime example of just how hard his kids have to work this year to make up for the loss of pure basketball talent.
"One guy that stuck out was Jalen Porter," he said. "He knew that was his job to go in and fight against the trees. He goes in there and fights every game. He's not very athletic, but he goes in there and fights. Dominique does too."
The Porter brothers, Jalen and Dominique, combined for 24 rebounds. Jalen, who scored eight points, had nine boards while Dominique had 15, which included 10 offensive rebounds.
Each team exchanged blows to begin the game. A basket by Advance's Layne Below, who led Advance with 22 points, put the Hornets ahead 12-11 with 3:02 left in the first quarter. A free throw by Antonio Johnson tied it at 12, but was followed by an offensive putback by Dominique Porter which gave the Braves a permanent lead they would never relinquish.
After that, the Braves returned to what their fans and others are used to seeing. They pressured the ball, got steals and converted on the other end and looked as though the defending champions were once again going to roll.
The Braves (3-2) went up by as much as 18 points in the second quarter when Dominique Porter, who had a game-high 34 points for the Braves, laid in a bucket with 4:04 left in the quarter to give Scott Central a 36-18 lead.
Advance, however, answered with a 15-4 run to close out the half and found themselves only down 40-36 heading into the locker room.
"We felt we needed to come together as a team and just play," said Porter following Advance's first half surge. "Instead of us taking that leap like we were supposed to and go ahead and put them away, we messed around and let them come back."
Wright knew they couldn't let that happen. Especially against a team like Advance, who, unlike most other teams, tend to keep it fairly close when facing the Braves.
"Advance just kept coming last year and it was the same thing this year," Wright said. "Their guys know our guys and we know them. They might be down 15-20 points like they were tonight and we screwed it up and we didn't keep them on a roll like we should have. That was were we screwed up. My kids didn't put it together like they should have and put it up 30 or 40 points like they should have.
"I told them they were in for a fight now. Because Advance is not going to stop."
Although they never lost the lead, the Braves had to keep the Hornets from sneaking up on them throughout the second half. Advance was down 61-50 at the end of the third but crept to within four points four different times.
"I was very frustrated," Porter admitted about not being able to put the Hornets away. "They boxed me away from the ball so they made me take shots that I normally wouldn't shoot. But, the more that we ran and got them tired, it spread out their defense and opened up shots for us."
The closest Advance came again was seven points with 6:23 left in the fourth when Ethan Barr sank 1 of 2 free throws to make it 64-57.
The Braves closed out the game with a 19-7 run due to converting on 6 of 11 free throws and late breakaway layups.
"We just couldn't seem to break that line of six or seven points," Advance coach Andrew Halford said. "The second half, unlike the first when we didn't, we started turning the ball over. We'd stop and make another run but we just couldn't get over that hump."
Senior LaMarcus Steward finished with 18 points, eight steals and six assists. Sophomore Larandis Banks ended with 15 points and four assists.
ADVANCE (64) -- Tyler Middleton 2, Hunter Wilson 6, Layne Below 22, Trey Wallace 10, Jacob Spears 13, Curtis Gilliland 2, Ethan Barr 9. FG 21 FT 21-28 F 21 (3-pointers: Below 1. Fouled out: Wilson, Spears.)
SCOTT CENTRAL (85) -- Larandis Banks 15, Jalen Porter 8, Chris Brown 1, Antonio Johnson 3, Dominique Porter 34, LaMarcus Steward 18, Tyler Masters 3, Dustin Johnson 3. FG 32 FT 20-28 F 21 (3-pointers: D. Johnson. Fouled out: Johnson.)