(Chris Pobst, Staff)
The sophomore sensation has lit up scoreboards with ease and has been one of the clear-cut scoring leaders for the region.
Jimerson did his thing Tuesday night, but the Eagles allowed a near upset slip away as the Cape Central Tigers bounced back for a 59-54 win during the SEMO Conference Tournament at the Sikeston Field House.
NMCC fell to the consolation side of the bracket and will take on Poplar Bluff Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Cape Central will play the tournament's No. 2 seed, Sikeston, Thursday during the winner's bracket semifinals at 8:30 p.m.
"We've got guys that need to step up and put the ball in the hole for us," NMCC head coach Travis Day said. "Right now, we can't hang our hats on hoping Willie can score for us. Other guys have got to step up and we're not getting that right now."
Jimerson scored a game-high 29 points on 10 of 19 shooting and included two steals, assists and rebounds.
Although Jimerson had little trouble finding the bottom of the net, the next highest scorer for the Eagles was Delontre Haney who added nine. The Eagles, who are the sixth seed, as a whole shot 21 of 51 (41 percent) from the floor.
"Willie's good enough to get his own shot opportunities," NMCC head coach Travis Day said. "We have to get more people involved so they can do the same."
Coupled with NMCC's lack of scoring depth, they also struggled late with containing Cape Central's Jamal Cox, who scored a team-high 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
Cox is only one of two players with varsity experience for the Tigers. Marcus Dixon, a varsity rookie, chipped in 14 points and seven rebounds.
"They're going to get lost," Cape Central head coach Drew Church said about his team's lack of experience. "Hopefully we can play hard enough to overcome those mental mistakes. Tonight, I felt we did that in the second half."
Cox, a 6-6 junior, delivered like the veteran he is scoring 16 of his 25 in the second half, including a go-ahead score with two minutes left to put the Tigers ahead 52-51.
"We definitely need to go inside to Cox," said Church. "Marcus (Dixon) has never played varsity basketball either, but we need to go inside first and look for that."
Although he lacks the playing time, Dixon pitched in late in the game as well.
"Knowing where the ball's supposed to go, where a cut is supposed to be, little things like that are where we lack," Church said. "But, I told them that we're going to make mistakes. If we have effort and still make mistakes and I can deal with that."
Cape Central's lack of experience and intensity showed in the first half as NMCC broke loose for a 7-0 lead right from the start.
Jimerson got going early creating numerous shots of the dribble and knocking down set jumpers for five points in the first quarter and 16 total in the first half.
NMCC barreled ahead by six points late in the second quarter and ended up looking down at the Tigers with a 26-21 lead at the half.
"When we stuck to the gameplan, we had success," Day said. "They were rotating and sprinting to the right spots. When we got to a point where we weren't doing that, bad things started to happen."
All of a sudden NMCC was hampered by a rejuvenated Cape Central defense, hounding their every move in the second half.
Despite small hiccups in the last two quarters, Cape Central, the tournament's third seed, mimicked a seasoned crew at times making sure Cox had his chances under the basket when they needed him the most.
Cape Central's pressure slowly led to their first lead of the game halfway through the third quarter when a steal by Mikey Jones led to an offensive putback by Dixon to give the Tigers a 34-33 advantage.
From that point, there were six lead changes and five ties until Cape Central pulled away late.
"We wanted to come out and be aggressive defensively. We didn't do that the first half," Church said. "I couldn't understand why. So, we had a good talk -- a really good talk -- at halftime and in the second half we guarded a little better, we didn't play scared and we attacked."
Dixon hit the layup that put Cape Central up for good, 54-52, with 1:12 remaining.
A free throw by Al Young, a stick-back by Cox and two more free throws from Young within the last minute sealed Cape Central's victory.
Cox scored nine points in the third quarter and another seven in the fourth.
"By far, Cox was," Day said about the 6-6 junior being the difference maker. "We didn't get a body on him like we were supposed to and gave him too many good looks under the basket. On our press, our big guys were leaving the paint. We're running out for the steal instead of staying in the hole like we're supposed to.
"Don't get me wrong, (Cox) worked his butt off, but we had tons of missed assignments."
NMCC held a slight rebounding advantage over the Tigers, 27-25, but, according to Day, too many mistakes on their part let this one get away.
"Really, we gave up way too many layups and too many missed assignments," Day said. "Those are things we work on every day. We just didn't step up and get it done."
NMCC (54) -- Willie Jimerson 29, Armondo Thatch 4, Jashawn McDaniel 2, Delontre Haney 9, Asten Newsom 6, Darrin McGlosin 4. FG 21 FT 9-12 F 18. (3-pointers: Jimmerson 3. Fouled out: none.)
CAPE CENTRAL (59) -- Al Young 4, Garon Evans 5, Jamal Cox 25, Braion Owens 2, Mikey Jones 7, Andre Statam 2, Marcus Dixon 14. FG 24 FT 9-15 F 14. (3-pointers: Evans 1, Jones 1. Fouled out: none.)