(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
BLOOMFIELD -- Despite a strong fourth quarter surge on Monday, fifth-seeded New Madrid County Central couldn't overcome a rough first half against fourth-seeded Caruthersville.
Playing the Tigers in the quarterfinals of the Class 3, District 1 Tournament, the Eagles saw their season come to a close with a 66-56 loss.
"We just couldn't get that stop when we needed that stop," NMCC head coach Travis Day said. "The effort was there, but Caruthersville's a good team and they took advantage of our mistakes.
"Good teams make you pay and they did. We had it to within five points several times in that second half and we just couldn't get over the hump there."
Trailing 35-24 coming out of the break, the Eagles situation only grew bleaker when their cold shooting allowed the Tigers open up the third frame on a 9-4 to push ahead by 16 points with 3:54 left in the frame.
After hitting only two of their first nine shots in the half, however, NMCC's offense found a spark as they rallied for eight unanswered points in the final three minutes of the quarter to close back to within eight.
Though they fell back down by as many as 12 points with six minutes to play, the Eagles made on last push midway through the quarter with an 11-4 run to close to within four, at 53-49, with 3:21 left on the clock.
Though they had worked their way back into a two-possession game, NMCC once again was faced with a double-digit deficit when a pair of Eagle turnovers allowed the Tigers to score six points in just over 30 seconds.
Fighting back to within five, at 61-56, with 1:28 remaining, NMCC was forced to send Caruthersville to the foul line as the Tigers tried to burn the remainder of the clock.
Going 3 of 6 from the free throw line in the final 1:23 while Darrell Monroe connected on a short jumper, Caruthersville was able to hold on for the win.
"We're not very deep and I think they maybe got a little tired," Tigers' head coach David Heeb said of his team's fourth quarter slump. "But I tell the kids all the time that this time of year it's about overcoming adversity.
"Because when your staring at the end of your season and things start going wrong some people panic and some can compose themselves. We did a nice job of that in fourth quarter."
In their final game of the season, Lamonte Nelson led NMCC (8-16) with a team-high 15 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter. Willie Jimmerson had 10 points for the Eagles while Darrin McGloson finished with nine. CJ Chism and Chillis Johnson had eight points each.
"We battled out butts off," Day said. "We just didn't take advantage of the opportunities we had. Just like in that third quarter when we got down big, there's no telling how many shots we missed. Wide open ones and even layups. That's what we have to get better at."
For the Tigers, Monroe had a game-high 27 points, going 9 of 14 from the free throw line and scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter. Jamal Johnson was second on the team with 16 points while Elbie Fonda and Steven Rodgers had 11 and 10 points respectively.
With the win, Caruthersville (16-8) now gets the unenviable task of playing the top-seed Charleston Bluejays in the tournament semifinals on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
"Charleston's No. 1 in the state for a reason," Heeb said. "I have tremendous respect for them. Coach (Danny) Farmer, he's like family, but we're not afraid of them. This will be our 25th game this year and 10 of the games we've played this year are against somebody ranked in the top five of their state.
"So we've played people as good or better than Charleston all year. We know they'll play hard and they know we'll play hard. They're going to know they're in a game Wednesday night. I promise you that."
CARUTHERSVILLE (66) -- Jamal Johnson 16, Steven Rodgers 10, Elbie Fonda 11, Jeremy Grant 2, Darrell Monroe 27. FG 24, FT 14-24, F 15. (3-pointers: Johnson 3, Fonda 1. Fouled out: none.)
NMCC (56) -- Lamonte Nelson 16, Willie Jimmerson 10, JaShawn McDaniel 4, CJ Chism 8, Armondo Thatch 2, Chillis Johnson 8, Darrin McGloson 9. FG 21, FT 14-17, F 19. (3-pointers: Nelson 1. Fouled out: McDaniel.)