By Andrew Powell ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW MADRID -- Coming into Friday night's homecoming game against Portageville, the New Madrid Country Central Eagles seemed to have something to prove.
"We really wanted to come out here and show everybody that last night wasn't really us," said NMCC head coach Travis Day, referring to their 70-56 loss at Sikeston. "Our biggest thing, after you could basically say sucking it up last night, was that we wanted to come and play four full quarters of basketball. And I am proud of us because I think we put it together tonight."
Put it together indeed as after the final buzzer sounded, the Eagles managed post a season-high 80 points en route to beating their district opponent 80-67.
It wasn't easy for the home team however, as the resilient Bulldog squad refused to go away.
"Portageville is a good team," said Day. "They kept battling us and they are the type of team that can cut any lead real quick. But we took care of the ball, had a couple silly mistakes here and there but overall it was a good win for us."
First quarter action got underway in a hurry with each team struggling to get a comfortable lead over their opponent. NMCC did manage to take a 15-9 advantage over Portageville midway through, but back-to-back 3-pointers from T.J. Smith and Jacob Estes quickly erased the Bulldog deficit. This would help to even things out as each team eventually found themselves tied 19-19 after the first eight minutes.
It was more of the same at the start second with each team keeping close pace of one another, trading baskets throughout. But in the closing minutes of the half, it was the Eagles that began building some momentum when they began working on the post.
"I thought we pushed the ball and ran it well in the first half," said Portageville head coach Jim Bidewell. "That was probably our silver lining. We forced more turnovers than they did but the name of the game is in the paint and that's were you win or lose ball games."
Behind the shoulders of Kony Ealy, the 6-5 sophomore would go on to score the last eight points of the second quarter for NMCC, including a two-handed slam dunk which electrified the homecoming crowd, putting them up 40-34 at the break.
"I told him when you get in there, you go strong and finish strong," said Day about Ealy's post play. "We're not gonna lay around and tip-toe down there. He finally made some strong moves and in turn got to the free throw line too."
Ealy went on to finish with 21 points and 7-7 shooting from the free throw line in the game.
Coming out of the locker room at half, it seemed as though the Eagles were ready to continue their momentum. After a Portageville steal at half court Ealy trailed the Bulldog dribbler, blocking the shot from behind setting the tone for the rest of the game.
And even though the visiting team managed to cut the lead down to six with 4:56 left to play in the game, that would be as close as they would get as the Eagles would go on to seal the game 80-67.
"We knew coming in that it wasn't going to be an easy game," said Bidewell. "Personally, I believe that New Madrid was one of the top teams in the district. They are physical kids and we knew we would have to do a lot of things right in order to beat them. They shot the ball well and absolutely kicked our rear ends on the boards."
Along with Ealy, NMCC (12-10) had three other players in the double digits. Dontre Jenkins got in on the action with 13 points and one 3-pointer while Justin Beasley had 12. Bryan Waters also chipped in with 10.
The Bulldogs (13-9) were lead by Bryon Wright with 23 points and one 3-pointer. Estes had 11 while Smith contributed 13 respectively.
Both teams will be back in action Tuesday night when the Eagles host the Kennett Indians as Portageville will try to bounce back on the road against the Scott City Rams.
In junior varsity action, the Bulldogs came away with a 62-60 victory. Royden Booker connected on a pair of winning free throws which gave his team the led with 1.4 seconds left remaining.