(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
NEW MADRID -- It had the build-up, look and eventual feel of a great comeback story.
New Madrid County Central opened the game nearly lifeless and fell behind big because of it.
They eventually made their run late in the fourth quarter with their season's hero, Willie Jimerson, who's been battling flu-like symptoms for the past few days no less, leading the charge.
The pieces were falling into place for one of the most dramatic come from behind wins in recent memory for the NMCC Eagles.
That's when Jackson's Blake Reynolds ended the fairy tale story.
Behind his game-winning bucket and a game-leading 27 points, Reynolds acted as the perfect antagonist dashing NMCC's hopes at the last second during a 53-51 Jackson win at New Madrid County Central High School Friday night.
"(Reynolds) was actually one guy I wasn't happy with at the beginning of the game," Jackson head coach Darrin Scott said. "He sat down, went back in and really responded well to that. He played the rest of the game. In the second half, he was big. He got the big rebound and stick-back, which was huge. He played very well after the start."
Although under the weather and it noticeably affecting him, Jimerson went off for 18
points to pace NMCC. The sophomore, who is averaging 24 points per game, wasn't as sharp as he had been, scoring two points in the first half and looking fatigued at times due to his contention with sickness.
"He's not 100 percent," Day said about Jimerson, "but that's no excuse for our effort to start the game. We were so flat in the first half. Even with Willie under the weather, we still have to compete. I'm more frustrated about how we competed than the loss."
During the fourth quarter, Jimerson shook off any kind of illness he may have been facing and sparked his team's late push.
NMCC entered the fourth quarter down by 14 points and fell by as much as 16 early in the frame.
With 2:01 remaining in the game, Jimerson sank two free throws to pull his team to within eight (51-43). Just 16 seconds later, he drilled a 3-pointer that sent the NMCC homecoming crowd into a frenzy. Moments later, Jashawn McDaniel blew the roof off with another 3-pointer cutting Jackson's lead to just two with 50.3 seconds left.
"We showed what type of team we can be," Day said. "When we play like we should with the effort we demand, you see what we're capable of."
After a few timeouts by both sides, Jackson inbounded the ball and tried to run off as much time as they could until Braxton McDowell found himself caught inside a NMCC trap with nowhere to go.
Jimerson, who scored 11 points in the fourth quarter alone, simply ripped the ball away from him and sprinted towards his goal for an uncontested layup to tie the game at 51-all with 12.9 seconds remaining.
After a timeout and during their ensuing inbounds, McDowell, trying to untie the game, hurried a 3-pointer that chipped the front of the rim. Reynolds scooped up the loose ball and quickly banked in a go-ahead layup while he was fouled that silenced what turned into a raucous crowd.
"In a 10-point game, late, is just three possessions," Scott said. "They hit a few threes and knock down free throws, it's a game again. What happened was we missed a few free throws, lost a bit of our composure and they ratcheted up their pressure. But, at the same time, we made some plays to win the game."
Reynolds stood at the charity stripe with a chance to put his team up by three with 6.6 seconds left, but missed. NMCC's Devon Harrell came down with the rebound and was fouled in doing so.
Harrell now stepped to the line with an opportunity to tie the game with three seconds on the clock. The Eagles' senior hit the back of the rim during his first attempt and rimmed out the second.
Jackson secured the rebound, ran out the remaining few seconds and secured the win.
The Eagles had to outscore Jackson 37-23 in the second half to force the late game theatrics after a less than adequate start.
They kept pace with the Indians during the first quarter following a 3-pointer at the buzzer from Armondo Thatch to end the period 12-11 in favor of Jackson.
The second quarter turned ugly for the Eagles scoring just three points, all by Darrin McGloson, as they were forced to push the ball around the perimeter because of Jackson's dominant size advantage.
The Indians packed the paint which limited Jimerson's driving abilities and neutralized NMCC's post players as well.
The Eagles scored just three points in the second quarter and ended the first half down 30-14.
"Coming out flat to a good team, I don't care who they are, you're going to get beat," said Day. "We played with no energy all night long until the last three minutes of the game. We stood on offense, didn't attack and never tried to look inside. We were acting like that was the first zone we've ever seen."
That was the plan according to Scott.
"We knew the game was going to be won in the paint," said Scott. "If they were going to beat us it was going to have to be from the perimeter. (Jimerson), and really most of their guards, we were going to have trouble keeping them in front of us."
Reynolds scored 17 of his game-high in the fourth quarter. Brandon Lueders and Karson King added 11 and 10 for the Indians as well.
Darrin McGloson chipped in 10 points for NMCC. The 6-4 sophomore scored half of NMCC's 14, first half points.
JACKSON (53) -- Josh Daume 1, Braden Wendel 2, Karson King 10, Blake Reynolds 27, Brandon Lueders 11, Luke Stevens 2. FG 19 FT 12-28 F 17. (3-pointers: Reynolds 1. Fouled out: Stevens.)
NMCC (51) -- Willie Jimerson 18, Armondo Thatch 9, Mikeal Walker 2, Jashawn McDaniel 7, Delontre Haney 4, Devon Harrell 1, Darrin McGloson 10. FG 18 FT 12-18 F 23. (3-pointers: Jimerson 1, Thatch 1, McDaniel 1. Fouled out: McDaniel.)