(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
SIKESTON -- The days of blowouts and sitting comfortably with a huge lead at halftime are in the past for the Scott County Central Braves.
Grinding out games and needing to find ways to win are now the norm for the defending Class 1 champions as they continue to fight to stay above the .500 mark.
And fight they did.
Reaching the championship game of the Scott-Mississippi Conference tournament for the seventh straight time Thursday, the Braves needed a second half surge to defeat the Scott City Rams 76-72 during the semifinals of the conference tournament at Scott Central High School.
The Braves have won the last six conference championships and will play Oran at 8:30 p.m. tonight for a possible seventh.
"We came out and our defense was sluggish," Scott County Central's Larandis Banks said. "We just had to keep it together and stay together as a team. We knew we could come back."
Banks came off the bench to lead Scott Central with 22 points. Jaylen Porter added 18 while Jeffrey Porter chipped in 12. Tyler Masters and Cameron Blissett each scored 10.
Scott City was led by Jesse Sanders who poured in a game-high 33 points. Jonathan McFall scored 18.
"This game was good for us," Scott Central head coach Frank Staple said. "A good team has to win games like this."
The Braves (9-8) trailed Scott City for the majority of the game finally gaining their first lead with 7:07 left in the fourth. Banks converted on a 3-point play set up by a Jeffrey Porter steal to give the Braves a 59-57 advantage.
The Rams were able to knot the game up twice afterwards, but one play by the younger Porter, Jeffrey, kept Scott Central in control.
With the game tied at 61-all, Jeffrey Porter stepped to the free throw line and sank the first but missed the second. The freshman was able to grab his own rebound and put it back in for a 64-61 -- SCC's biggest lead of the night so far.
"We've been getting out to some slow starts and if we can play with energy like we played with in the second half, we'll be in a better situation," Staple said.
"We had to crank it up," Banks added. "We were out in front of our home crowd for just the third time this season. We just knew we had to come back and get the win."
From that point on, Scott City pulled to within two points three different times in the last two minutes. The latest, Scott City's Ryan Brock barreled his way through the lane to make it a 74-72 game with 27 seconds remaining.
Carefully making his way up the court, Banks, who scored 20 of his 22 in the second half and was a perfect 9 for 9 at the free throw line, found a small opening towards the rim and darted for the basket. At the last possible second, Banks flipped an underhanded pass to Masters, who was breaking to the rim from the baseline. Unguarded, Masters laid in the easy two with under 20 seconds left handing the Braves a 4-point lead they would hold on to for the win.
"We had a few little mistakes and they capitalized on them," Scott City head coach Mark Dannenmueller said. "You can't make mistakes against a team like that. We missed some shots and free throws. It wasn't for the lack of effort, that's for sure. Those kids played their butts off."
Scott City (10-8) failed to make much happen with their last possession as confusion on their part and a hounding Scott Central defense made it difficult. Although they needed to buckets to have a chance, a shot with nearly five ticks left found its way towards the goal, but missed. The ball trickled away letting the Braves and their fans breath a sigh of relief.
The Rams came into the semifinal matchup with the upset in mind. The Braves, the tournament's No. 2 seed, fell behind rather quickly as Sanders and McFall found holes in Scott Central's zone defense allowing them to get in a rhythm early.
Scott Central's gameplan was to limit the 6-5 Brock by packing his defense into the paint. Sanders and McFall made them pay.
"We came out with the intention of stopping their big kid (Brock)," said Staple. "They hit about five or six three's on us so we had to adjust. When shots are falling like that you just have to weather the storm and keep trying to do what you do."
Sanders scored nine points in the first quarter while McFall drained two 3-pointers. Before the Braves could blink, the Rams were ahead 8-0 and then 16-6.
"We knew they'd come out and pack it in to eliminate Ryan (Brock)," Dannenmueller said. "They just came out with confidence. Jesse and Jon carried us. That's what you want your seniors to do."
Scott Central, however, pulled themselves back into the game ending the first quarter on a 10-2 run. Although the Braves were back to within two points, Scott City started to separate themselves once more in the second quarter.
Three 3-pointers from Sanders and another two from McFall gave the Rams a 39-27 lead at halftime. The Rams were ahead by as much as 14 points.
"It was a fun game," Dannenmueller said, "would have been a little bit more fun if we would have won."
SCOTT CITY (72) -- Trent Pobst 5, Jesse Sanders 33, Jonathan McFall 18, Ryan Fortner 7, Ryan Brock 7. FG 24 FT 15-25 F 17. (3-pointers: Sanders 3, McFall 4. Fouled out: none.)
SCC (76) -- Chris Brown 2, Larandis Banks 22, Tyler Masters 10, Jaylen Porter 18, Kendall Blissett 2, Jeffrey Porter 12, Cameron Blissett 10. FG 28 FT 16-22 F 17. (3-pointers: Banks 1, Ja. Porter 1, C. Blissett 2. Fouled out: none.)
Oran head coach Joe Shoemaker will tell you his Eagles lost in every facet of the game except the final score.
A sloppy performance from the conference tournament's top seed still didn't deter the Eagles from a 65-55 win over Chaffee Thursday during the first semifinals game of the night at Scott Central High School.
"We probably had the worst week of practice we've had all year and we played like it," Shoemaker said. "Chaffee, though, is a very well coached team and did everything they needed to do. We're lucky to get a win."
Oran was paced by Alex Heuring who scored a game-high 23 points. Kody Moore added 16 points and Hunter Schlosser had 11.
Jared Walker led the Devils with 17 points. Charlie Montgomery was close behind with 16.
After the first quarter, the scrappy Devils found themselves down by just two points (16-14) and just five at the half, 32-27.
Although laboring, the Eagles slowly added to their lead in the second half mostly from the free throw line and continuing to feed Heuring in the paint. Oran (15-2) hit 12 of 13 free throws in the fourth quarter as a team. Heuring scored 13 of his 23 in the second half.
Walker did what he could to try and will his Devils (10-7) back into the game hitting two 3-pointers and scoring nine points in the final quarter. Walker's last 3-pointer with 1:11 left in the game cut their deficit to 59-55.
Four-straight free throws by Jacob Priggle, however, iced the game for Oran giving them the edge and leading them into the championship game Friday night against Scott County Central.
"We were able to make some free throws and we really hit the defensive boards there late," said Shoemaker.
The last time Oran and Scott Central played was during the seMissourian Christmas Tournament when the the Eagles surprisingly routed the Braves by 30 points.
"They're going to be a different team than they were at Christmas getting to play on their home floor," said Shoemaker. "We'll have a work cut out for us."
Chaffee will play Scott City at 5:30 p.m. for third place.
CHAFFEE (55) -- Peyton Montgomery 3, Layton Tenkhoff 9, Jared Walker 17, Jimmy Golden 7, Tyler Golden 2, Charlie Montgomery 16, Trevor Morehead 1. FG 21 FT 8-12 F 23. (3-pointers: Tenkhoff 1, Walker 4. Fouled out: none)
ORAN (65) -- Kody Moore 16, Seth Ressel 9, Jacob Priggle 4, Chance Tenkhoff 2, Hunter Schlosser 11, Alex Heuring 23. FG 20 FT 22-30 F 15. (3-pointers: Moore 3. Fouled out: none.)