SIKESTON -- During their last two games, the New Madrid County Central Eagles have immensely improved. They took care of the Poplar Bluff Mules in the consolation semifinals by taming what has killed them all season long -- turnovers.
However on Friday, NMCC contained their achilles heel for three quarters but couldn't keep their turnover habits from rearing its ugly head as they fell 67-63 in overtime to the Jackson Indians during the SEMO Conference tournament consolation championship game at the Sikeston Field House.
"We made the turnovers in the wrong, crucial times in the game," NMCC head coach Travis Day said. "Right now, every time we turn it over it turns into points for our opponent."
It looked as if the Eagles would bow out early after they fell behind 17-9 following a first quarter. During the quarter, NMCC turned the ball over five times and allowed the Indians to capitalize on those mishaps for a 16-5 run to end the frame.
The Eagles flipped a switch in the second and third quarters, however.
Led by senior Lamonte Nelson, the Eagles began to keep possessions and work through their offense. Nelson scored a game-high 21 points for NMCC including five 3-pointers.
NMCC, who shot 63 percent from the floor, ended the second quarter with a 12-0 run to go up 28-24 at the half.
"We had spurts where we really slowed down and played well," Day said. "We were able to hold on to the ball and work against their defense to find the open shot."
The Eagles found themselves up 42-36 at the end of the third quarter and held a 52-47 advantage with 2:27 left in the game, but three turnovers in the last minute and a half hampered the Eagles' chances of putting Jackson away.
"I thought really in that fourth quarter we played to win and we expected to win. That's something we've really been talking about is playing with confidence," Jackson coach Darrin Scott said. "The way they were shooting the basketball, we felt like we couldn't get them to turn it over. They were patient until they got a good shot. The fact that we were able to turn them over enough to get a lead and get back in the game, was the key for us."
After Jackson's Josh Meyer gave his team a 54-52 lead with 30 seconds left, Nelson was fouled with eight ticks remaining and calmly sank two free throws to tie it again.
During Jackson's inbound play, the Indians tried slinging it cross court to Meyer, but it sailed out of bounds giving the Eagles the ball under their own basket with 3.1 seconds left.
NMCC's inbounds play unfolded by giving Nelson the ball just feet from the basket, but his foot landed on the baseline giving Jackson the ball right back and missing an opportunity to end it in regulation.
"We run an isolation play to our bigs, trying to get them under the basket and the next move would be our guards coming in behind them," Day said. "We got them in the right spot we just caught the ball out of bounds."
During overtime, Nelson struck first with a 3-pointer to give his Eagles the upper hand. A turnover by NMCC immediately led to a Jackson basket which kick started a 6-point swing, 60-57, in favor of the Indians.
A long 3-pointer by Nelson sliced Jackson's lead to 64-61 with 39 seconds left. A turnover by the Eagles and two free throws by Jackson, put the stamp on NMCC which gave Jackson the title.
"We got some steals when we needed them," said Scott. "Calvin (Lysell) hit a big three, we got a few offensive rebounds and we kept competing and playing hard. I thought they had to take some tough shots to stay in it.
"I was really pleased with what we did late in the game."
Jackson's Karson King led the Indians with 19 points, while Meyer and Luke Stevens added 18 and 13 respectively.
"All we can do is keep working and try to get better cleaning up our turnovers where we can be patient and make the right pass and the right decision," said Day. "We have improved. That's all we can do. I always say that everything is preseason until districts. We try to go into every day just to improve and get better."
NMCC (63) -- Earl Grissom 2, Lamonte Nelson 21, Jashawn McDaniel 9, Brandon Ray 9, Dre Wilson 4, CJ Chism 6, Darrin McGloson 4, Jamarri Jones 8. FG 26 FT 5-9 F 21 (3-pointers: Nelson 5, Ray 2. Fouled out: Jones.)
JACKSON (67) -- Caleb Newcomer 7, Braxton McDowell 3, Calvin Lysell 7, Karson King 19, Josh Meyer 18, Luke Stevens 13. FG 22 FT 19-29 F 12 (3-pointers: Newcomer 1, McDowell 1, Lysell 1. Fouled out: none.)