(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
SIKESTON -- It wasn't as lopsided as their previous meeting, but the Scott County Central Braves once again walked off the court looking up at the Notre Dame Bulldogs.
A cold-shooting fourth quarter put the Braves in a bind as the Bulldogs abused the charity stripe and pulled away for a 57-47 win.
"We knew we didn't play our best game against them last time," Scott County Central head coach Kenyon Wright said. "They came ready to play defensively, which was the biggest difference from the last time.
"We gave up a couple of offensive rebounds that beat us. Just a couple offensive rebounds that beat us."
On a night where Scott County Central legend Marcus Timmons was in attendance, the Braves failed to pull off the upset due to poor shooting in the final eight minutes.
"What we did to them at the SEMO tournament, I guarantee you, sparked them a little bit and they wanted to beat us," Notre Dame head coach Kevin Roberts said. "It was going to come down to execution and rebounding because that's where we were really good the last time."
Although Dominique Porter, who finished with a team-high 21 points, gave the home crowd a jolt after burying a 50-foot heave to give the Braves a 39-37 advantage at the conclusion of the third quarter, Scott Central couldn't buy a bucket.
The Braves (10-7) missed their first five shots while Notre Dame took control. Nathan Meystedt tied the game at 39 and then gave his Bulldogs a lead they would not relinquish again by nailing his second 3-pointer of the night.
Notre Dame senior Cody Heisserer knocked down two free throws to give the Bulldogs a 44-39 lead.
Dominique Porter finally broke through Scott Central's scoring drought by hitting a 3-pointer cutting the Bulldogs' lead to two. Notre Dame, however, rattled off an 11-4 run during the last two and a half minutes to close it out.
Meystedt put the finishing touches on the Braves in the fourth scoring 13 of his game-high 24 in the final frame. He went 6 of 6 from the free throw line in the fourth as well.
Notre Dame converted on 18 of 20 free throws in the second half taking advantage of defensive miscues by the Braves. In particular, Jonathan Lynch.
Knowing that Scott Central is hampered by a small bench, Lynch and the rest of the Bulldogs took action to force the Braves into foul trouble. The Notre Dame senior was able to fake once to get unsuspecting Braves into the air and then jump into them causing the foul.
"He's very crafty with the ball," Roberts said about Lynch. "He's kind of our three man inside on defense but he's our true point guard on the offense. He penetrated and got to the line. We were 18 of 20 from the free throw line in the second half. That just shows what kind of character we have on this team."
Scott Central starter Jaylen Porter, who was one of six players to see time on the floor for the Braves, fouled out in the third quarter.
"We didn't adjust to that well," Wright said about Lynch's tactic. "We got it in our mind that we were going to go block them instead of staying on the floor and make them sling it at the goal. And when they did shoot it, we didn't get the rebound.
"We just had a stretch where we did not rebound and we played dumb. Against Notre Dame, you can't play dumb."
The Braves held a 14-13 lead after the first quarter and a 28-26 advantage at the half.
"We moved well offensively at times," Wright said about the first half offense. "Against that match-up (zone) you have to cut and move and they got caught standing a few times which gave us opportunities to get to the goal."
Notre Dame held the shooting advantage in the first half with a 52 percent average (12 of 23) while the Braves went 12 of 26 (46 percent).
"Our defense wasn't very good in the first half," Roberts said. "There were lanes for them and we were getting beat off of their passing. In the second half, it was team defense -- there were no gaps. We didn't give any penetration, nothing in the middle and we were forcing outside shots and that's what we needed to do."
Scott Central held Notre Dame to just two field goals in the third quarter but the Bulldogs went a cool 7 of 8 from the free throw line to stay afloat.
A basket by Ryan Hale put Notre Dame up 37-36 with 38 seconds left in the third, but that was erased by Dominique Porter's desperation heave at the buzzer.
The Braves struggled to find their shot in the second half going 8 of 24 (33 percent).
"We got open shots, but we just didn't hit them," Wright said. "We didn't get offensive rebounds either. Those will kill you."
NOTRE DAME (57) -- Demonte Farmer 2, Jonathan Lynch 5, Jordan Reddin 4, Nathan Meystedt 24, Joe Siebert 7, Cody Heisserer 9, Ryan Hale 6. FG 18 FT 19-23 F 12 (3-pointers: Meystedt 2. Fouled out: Siebert.)
SCC (47) -- Larandis Banks 5, Jaylen Porter 9, Antonio Johnson 6, Dominique Porter 21, LaMarcus Steward 6. FG 20 FT 4-6 F 18 (3-pointers: D. Porter. Fouled out: J. Porter.)