(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
NEW MADRID -- Closing out the Riverbend Classic on Saturday, the New Madrid County Central Eagles saw their early fourth quarter lead slip away in a 59-55 loss to West Memphis, Ark.
"We just have to learn how to finish games," NMCC head coach Travis Day said. "We played two and a half to three quarters pretty good and then we just started making silly mistakes.
"We have to get better at learning how to put a whole game together and finish it off."
After building a seven-point advantage going into the final two minutes of the third quarter, the Eagles' fortunes took a turn for the worse when West Memphis closed the frame with a 5-1 run.
What was left of NMCC's lead evaporated midway through the fourth when the Blue Devils used an Eagle turnover to cap their comeback at 43-43 with 4:36 to play.
A big part of the Eagles' problems came at the hands of West Memphis' full-court press, which they used much of the second half.
Forcing several turnovers near mid-court, the Blue Devils were able to slow down an Eagle offense that had kept mistakes in the first two quarters to a minimum.
"It wasn't a really tough press," Day. "I thought we were trying to get rid of the ball and get it out of our hands. We were just throwing it instead of taking our time and moving the ball around and getting a good shot off."
Off a steal, West Memphis' Fabian Logan sunk a free throw to give his team it's first lead of the night while starting a 9-4 Blue Devil run.
NMCC trailed 56-49 with 1:29 to play and looked to be be fading away before a couple quick Eagle baskets and missed West Memphis free throws closed their deficit to three points with 24 seconds left.
Unable to foul as West Memphis worked to kill the rest the time on the clock, NMCC looked like it might not get another offensive possession to try and tie things up.
With 10 seconds remaining, however, the Eagles' defense forced the Blue Devils into a turnover at half-court setting up one last shot.
Forced to go for a 3-pointer down 58-55, NMCC saw its final shot of the night bounce off the rim and into the hands of the Blue Devils. West Memphis hit one final free throw to seal the game and make up the final.
"We showed if we keep fighting we have a chance," Day said. "But we just have to be able to put four quarters together. If we can do that and get better every game, we have a chance."
Leading the Eagles' effort for the second straight night was Willie Jimerson. Jimerson, a 5-9 sophomore, scored 23 points including 13 in the second half.
Armondo Thatch was second on the team 13 points and Delontre Haney had eight.
For West Memphis, Kelvin Mooney had a 17-point effort while Glen Burns and Marcus Nesby finished with 12 points each.
Though they wrapped up this year's Riverbend Classic with the same 1-1 record as last year, Day thought this year's team had a better overall performance.
"A whole lot better showing than last year," Day said. "We have a chance to be a pretty good team. We just have to get better every day and keep attacking."
MEMPHIS (59) -- Keira Brown 2, Kelvin Mooney 17, Fabian Logan 10, Glen Burns 12, Marcus Nesby 12, Dannie Gatewood 2, Vakemeyus Davis 4. FG 20 FT 18-31 F 11. (3-pointers: Mooney 1. Fouled out: none.)
NMCC (55) -- Willie Jimerson 23, Armondo Thatch 13, Mikeal Walker 4, Jashawn McDaniel 2, Delontre Haney 8, Asten Newsom 4. FG 23 FT 8-11 F 27. (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: Devon Harrell.)