By Brad Hurt ~ DAR Sports writer
POPLAR BLUFF -- Portageville survived a late rally by Twin Rivers to pull off what may be considered an upset based on the Bloomfield Christmas Tournament seedings.
The Royals have the No. 6 seed in the tournament scheduled for Dec. 26-29, while the Bulldogs have the No. 9 seed.
Twin Rivers' Ryan Miller banked in a shot from halfcourt as time expired, but it did little to change the outcome of the game as the Royals fell 60-55.
After trailing by as many as 10 points in the third quarter, the Royals (3-3) made a comeback led by junior Kyle Oberkramer, who sparked an 8-1 run for the Royals that brought them to within three points at the end of the quarter.
Oberkramer also contributed a key blocked shot to spoil a Portageville fast break in the second quarter and scored the first points of the game for the Royals, who were held scoreless for the first five minutes of the game.
"Kyle gave us an inside presence and really picked us up," said Twin Rivers coach Rob Brown.
Oberkramer finished with a gamehigh 24 points.
Most of the game's action occurred in the post, where Portageville's Byron Wright scored 23 points and caused all kinds of trouble for the Royals.
"He's their go-to guy," Brown said of Wright. "He's very methodical, disciplined and patient."
Wright's coach acknowledged Wright's importance to the team, but also said he can be a liability at times.
"He makes things happen," Bulldogs head coach Jim Bidewell said, "but sometimes he's careless. He can give us four points then turn around and give up four or six."
The Royals fell behind from the start largely because they made costly mistakes on offense. After four minutes of play, they had seven turnovers and zero points on the scoreboard.
"We just didn't take care of the ball," Brown said.
By the end of the opening quarter, the Royals had nine turnovers and only eight points.
The Bulldogs left the door open for the Royals by turning the ball over five times in the second quarter, leading to eight points, mostly off secondary breaks.
Stockton made a layup with 1:59 remaining in the first half to give the Royals their only lead of the game at 23-21, but it proved to be short-lived as the Bulldogs scored the final four points of the half to take a 25-23 lead into the break. Wright provided the goahead basket as time ran out.
Although his team took a lead into the intermission, Bidewell was disappointed in his players' effort.
"We just stood around in the first half," he said. "We need to learn how to move on defense."
The beginning of the second half must have seemed familiar to the Royals as they once again came out cold, this time going over two minutes before Stockton gave them their first basket of the half to cut the lead to 31-25.
The Bulldogs then used their transition game to build a 36-26 lead with 3:44 remaining in the quarter before Oberkramer sparked the Twin Rivers run.
He made big play after big play, all the way up to the final minute of the game, fouling out with 29.7 seconds remaining after converting a 3-point play to trim the lead to 56-50 just nine seconds earlier.
"We had a chance to put them away," Bidewell said.
The Royals can take some consolation in the fact that their next two games are at home.
"We should have energy," Brown said. "We just have to pick up our intensity."