NMCC wins district championship
By David Jenkins ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
PORTAGEVILLE -- When NMCC sophomore Dontre Jenkins was younger, he used to be a manager for the Eagles basketball team and watched as they won three district titles. Now Jenkins has one of his own as NMCC defeated Portageville 61-41 for the Class 3, District 1 title Thursday night.
"I'm real excited," said Jenkins after the game. "We've been texting each other since yesterday telling each other how bad we want this. It's been about six years since we had one and we wanted to put the banner up."
NMCC was motivated from the start, jumping out to a 15-10 lead in the first quarter while taking advantage of Portageville's zone defense. With Portageville in a zone, NMCC was able to dominate the boards, getting numerous second-chance opportunities. For the game, NMCC out-rebounded Portageville 35-17.
"That's been our key," NMCC coach Travis Day said. "Everybody always wants to play us a zone but that kind of helps us out because we are pretty good rebounding team, so we're good at crashing the boards. They came out in that triangle-two, and I think that kind of helped us because our two best rebounders were the ones they weren't guarding."
"They're blessed with some nice physical bodies on their team," Portageville coach Jim Bidewell said. "Everything had to go just right for us and they had to play sub-par. We didn t hit our shots and close ball games like this you've got to hit them and we didn't."
NMCC extended its lead in the second quarter, taking a 29-18 lead at halftime. The Eagles then extended the lead to 43-26 after three quarters as Portageville " struggled to find offense.
"Give credit to their defense of putting so much pressure on us it took us out of our offense," Bidewell said.
Day said he has been trying to get his team focused on playing good defense the last few weeks.
"We played hard and I think that was the biggest point," Day said. "Defense has been our biggest focus point right now. Containing guys and containing teams. Keeping Portageville to a low minimum like they scored tonight was a real plus for us."
NMCC stretched their lead to 19 in the fourth quarter but Portageville, using a full-court press, began to chip away at the lead, cutting the deficit to 12 on several different occasions.
"We couldn't get that big bucket to fall, that one that really breaks their back," Bidewell said. "We'd get down 12 and then they'd jump back up. We just couldn't ever get it down to single digits. But give them credit. It wasn't that we gave it to them, they took it."
Portageville was forced to put NMCC on the foul line and the Eagles responded, sinking 10-of-14 free throws in the fourth quarter, including a 6-of-8 performance from Jenkins.
"We practice our free throws for about 20 minutes before practice and after practice we shoot and if we miss, we have to run," Jenkins said. "So we make it just like a game."
Jenkins finished with a game-high 19 points and did a bulk of the ball-handling for the Eagles.
"He's been coming on strong," Day said of Jenkins. "What helps him is he s a big body point guard. He can take his bumps here or there and keep on going strong. He's been playing well for us.
NMCC also had a big day from Kony Ealy. The 6-5 sophomore scored 16 points and pulled down 15 rebounds while collecting five steals.
"I think I played exceptionally well with the boards and defensively but I left it up to my team to get the rest done," Ealy said.
The Eagles also got 10 points and four rebounds from Josh Minner.
Portageville had four players score eight points: Byron Wright, Jacob Estes, Fred Treadwell and Terrale Jones.
"It's tough," Bidewell said. "A game like this you're supposed to bring your best game and we didn't tonight. I congratulate Coach Day on a great job and having them finishing strong in the end. I hope they go on and take it all. It will be tough but if they stay tough and do the fundamentals they can do it."
Portageville finished the season 17-9 and Bidewell said he was happy with how his team finished the season. The Bulldogs will lose Estes, Jones and T.J. Smith to graduation.
"I was real proud of our kids," Bidewell said. "We had our ups and downs but we did well considering we had no starters back from last year. It was a great job by our seniors with leadership, dedication and faithfulness to the coach. I'm going to miss that."
While Portageville saw its season come to an end, NMCC will now move on to sectionals to play the winner of Doniphan/Malden game that will be played tonight.
"It means a lot to us," Ealy said. "We haven't won it since 2002. It's a good accomplishment but we've got to go out and get another one."
NMCC's sectional will be Wednesday at Poplar Bluff High School at 7:45 p.m. but for now the Eagles will enjoy their district title.
"We're excited right now to just be 16-10," Day said. "We're doing a lot of firsts this year that haven't been done since 2002 at New Madrid. We're excited about that, but we're a bunch of Noranda workers. We re going to come every day with our lunch pails and keep it going."