(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
PORTAGEVILLE -- With his team facing an early deficit, Willie Jimerson hit one shot that completely turned the game on its end.
Jimerson drained a halfcourt shot with a Portageville defender draped over him to close out the first quarter sending, not only, the NMCC fans into a frenzy but it also sent the message that NMCC's most valuable player was not to be denied.
The New Madrid County Central sophomore overcame whatever defense Portageville threw at him to the tune of a career-high 41 points while the Eagles flipped a slow start into an 82-64 win Friday at Portageville High School.
"When we were down, we just didn't give up," Jimerson said. "I just told the guys to keep our heads up. We've been in that situation before and we can fight back. We fought back and won the game."
Jimerson also recorded six rebounds and three assists while torching the Bulldogs in front of a raucous and packed crowd.
"We hoped to do a little better on Jimerson but, all in all, he's tough on everybody," Portageville head coach Jason Irby said about Jimerson.
Delontre Haney scored 14 and had five rebounds while Darrin McGloson added 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocks.
"This is a very hard place to play. I don't care what type of team Portageville has. It's always tough," NMCC head coach Travis Day said. "What I'm the most proud of is how our guys did not put their head down when we got down early. We kept fighting."
Trying to will his team behind his own monster effort, Portageville's Dominique Walker scored a team-high 31 points to go along with seven rebounds and four steals.
The combination of Jimerson's antics and the dominant play of McGloson and Haney -- who stand at 6-4 and 6-5 respectively -- under the basket led to a dominant night for NMCC.
The Eagles used a big advantage around the glass to keep them out in front for most of the night. NMCC out-rebounded the Bulldogs 40-20 thanks in part to McGloson, Haney and JaShawn McDaniel, who pulled down another seven rebounds.
"The biggest difference in the game was rebounding," Irby said. "A lot of times our initial defense was good. Those second and third shots we just couldn't defend. It got us in foul trouble and they got a lot of easy points from it."
NMCC's post players were able to keep the pressure off of Jimerson so the whole scoring load wouldn't fall on his shoulders, which is an area the Eagles have struggled with this season.
"Willie had a good game, but we also had guys that played well in key spots for us," said Day. "Even with Willie on the bench we were still able to score and that's probably a first for us. We're winning now because our 'bigs' are playing better, stronger and they're finishing inside."
Although it ended up in the Eagles' favor, Portageville (9-8) had the upper hand early.
NMCC opened the game with a 6-4 advantage but Walker soon took over. The senior scored 12 first quarter points as Portageville pulled off a 15-2 run to take a 19-8 lead with one minute to go in the period.
Just as quickly as Portageville took control, Jimerson had an answer.
In a span of 35 seconds, NMCC scored seven unanswered points. A put-back by McGloson started the rally while Jimerson finished it off with soft floater near the basket and his midcourt heave to cut the Bulldogs' lead to four.
The Eagles ( ) reclaimed the lead early in the second quarter and never relinquished it again. Jimerson scored 11 in the second quarter, leaving him with 21 at the half. Haney scored seven of his 14 in the second frame as well while the Eagles went on to outscore Portageville 26-14 as a team.
A big reason for the Bulldogs' offensive lapse was the absence of Walker.
The 6-3 slasher picked up his second foul early in the period and was parked on the bench for the remainder of the half.
At halftime NMCC held a 41-33 lead.
"He came out with about five minutes left in the second quarter and that really took a big weapon away from us offensively," Irby said. "We tried to hang on the best we could there but they made a run and got some distance on us."
Although Walker was back on the floor to start the second half and scored 10 points in the third quarter alone, Portageville could not make up any ground.
As a team, the Bulldogs shot 5 of 16 from the field in the third frame. The Eagles outscored them again, 15-14, to take a 56-47 lead into the final eight minutes.
"(Walker) hurt us hard in the first quarter," Day said. "We made some adjustments and I think he got out of that attack mode on us. I'd like to say it was good defense, but you never know."
Just as he did in the first quarter, Jimerson took over and sealed the game with 13 fourth quarter points. He went 5 of 8 from the free throw line down the stretch.
"My teammates set good screens for me. It was just a good game all-around for us," said Jimerson.
The NMCC junior varsity also picked up a win against Portageville 60-27.
Kiel Causey led the Eagles with 14 points. Aston Newsom added 11 while Drew Palmer chipped in 10.
NMCC (82) -- Willie Jimerson 41, Armondo Thatch 2, Mikeal Walker 8, Jashawn McDaniel 2, Asten Newsom 5, Darrin McGloson 10, Delontre Haney 14. FG 27 FT 24-32 F 25. (3-pointers: Jimerson 2. Fouled out: none.)
PORTAGEVILLE (64) -- Ben Story 6, Dion Foster 12, Dominique Walker 31, Robert Anderson 6, Denzell Simmons 1, A.V. Banks 2, Daniel Allen 2, Caleb Gooch 4. FG 19 FT 24-31 F 24. (3-pointers: Story 1, Walker 1. Fouled out: none.)