Oran boys basketball cruises past Bell City in Oran Invitational quarterfinal
ORAN, Mo. -- The Oran boys basketball team experienced a bit of an identity crisis during the first several minutes of Tuesday night's quarterfinal in the 61st Annual Oran Invitational Tournament.
For a team that prides itself on playing fast, the fourth-seeded Eagles struggled to control the tempo, and the shots just weren't falling.
Luckily for Oran, the team rediscovered itself midway through the first period and built a 17-point halftime lead en route to a 75-55 win over No. 5 Bell City at Oran High School.
"Run-and-gun's kind of our game," Eagles senior Max Priggel said. "We came out and were kind of nervous, but in the second and third quarters, everyone kind of settled in. We got back to how we like to play."
Priggel was one of two Oran players to record a double-double, finishing with a game-high 25 points to go along with 12 rebounds. Sophomore Jacob Shoemaker added 24 points and 12 boards for the Eagles, who move on to face top-seeded Malden in a semifinal at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
Cole Nichols drove along the baseline and scored to give the Cubs a 9-4 lead with 3 minutes, 56 seconds left in the opening period before Priggel scored on back-to-back layups in transition to conclude a 7-0 spurt that gave Oran (1-0) its first lead of the game, 11-9, with 2:30 remaining in the first.
After Chase Dembowski answered with a 3-pointer from the right key that moved Bell City (0-1) ahead, the Eagles took the lead for good on a putback by Layne Johnson. An 8-0 run over the final 1:53 of the opening period allowed Oran to build a 19-12 advantage heading into the second.
"I thought we played a little tentative, and some of that was Bell City. They came out ready to play tonight. They're very well coached, a good basketball team," Eagles coach Joe Shoemaker said. "We kind of got up and down a little bit and got a little rhythm going in the second and third quarters."
Bobby Wright splashed in a 3 from the left corner that trimmed the Cubs' deficit to 27-21 with 5:09 to go in the first half, but the Eagles closed the half on a 16-5 run, including nine points from Jacob Shoemaker, and took a 43-26 lead into halftime.
Oran created much of its offensive success by utilizing team speed in transition, collectively moving the ball up the floor before the Cubs were able to recover.
"You could see the guys were feeding off it. They were starting to feel it a little better," Joe Shoemaker said. "They know that's the way we have to play in order to be successful. We've got to defend and rebound a little better than we did tonight. We got a little sloppy at times, but that will hopefully come with a little practice and some games."
A fast-break layup by Nichols pulled Bell City within 15 points at the 4:40 mark of the third quarter, but the Eagles used a 10-4 burst to widen their lead to 60-39 heading into the final period.
Oran went into a full-court press midway through the opening period and didn't let up until the final minutes of the game. Bell City turned the ball over 21 times, but coach CJ Hadley believes the majority of those turnovers were self-inflicted.
"I don't know if the guys were nervous or what," Hadley said. "... Oran's a good team. They have a bunch of scorers -- all five of their guys can score. It's tough when you're guarding a team that has five scorers, and you keep giving them second shots. Once they miss, that's when we've got to box out and rebound. I guarantee they got 30 points off second shots from their rebounding. I feel like that was the main thing."
The Eagles were led on the boards by Johnson, who finished with a game-high 14 rebounds and five assists. As a team, the Eagles hauled in 60 boards.
"We've got some guys that I feel like can shoot it, but we don't need to settle for early ones. It gives us a chance to get in position to rebound a little bit," Joe Shoemaker said. "I've got some guys that crash hard and some that do it every once in a while. When we get to where we can consistently crash hard, we'll be all right."
Battling foul trouble early in the second half, the Eagles turned to their bench for some contributions. Oran junior Bradley Brooks led all the reserves with six points on 3-of-4 shooting.
"Bradley did an excellent job tonight," Joe Shoemaker said. "He came in and guarded and hit open shots. ... I thought he played a very good game for us tonight."
The Eagles finished 51 percent (33 of 65) from the floor, as Priggel and Jacob Shoemaker combined to shoot 60 percent (21 of 35).
While the two-guard tandem reaped the benefits in scoring, coach Shoemaker credited the rest of his players for creating those opportunities.
"We set some decent screens, but the other guys did a good job of recognizing who was hot and getting them the basketball," he said. "They played so hard. I really felt like those two in particular crashed the boards really well."
Nichols led the Cubs with 19 points, including 14 in the second half. The senior guard, who was an all-state player a year ago, shot 6 of 9 from the field but was guarded closely by junior Cole Priggel.
In last year's Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament, the Eagles escaped with a 64-58 win against Bell City in a consolation semifinal despite allowing Nichols to score 37 points.
"I kind of challenged him to be the man," Joe Shoemaker said about Cole Priggel. "There were times where he and Jacob kind of switched off, but it was mainly Cole Priggel just stepping up and trying to find him at all times and not give him any open looks."
Logan Yates finished with 14 points for the Cubs before fouling out late in the fourth quarter, while Wright added 13 points.
Bell City finished 45 percent from the field but had 21 less attempts than the Eagles.
The Cubs' lone scorer off their bench was Dembowski, who finished with three points.
"I tell them, 'We're not a team that can only have one or two players score. We've got to have all five guys on the same page,'" Hadley said. "There were spurts where we'd have two guys on the same page. Then we'd have maybe three guys on the same page. We never had a time where all five guys were on the same page.
"We're going to need everybody. We're a small team. We don't have the strongest bench like some of these other teams, so I tell them all the time, 'You have to play your pace of the game. We need all five people. Everyone has to take care of the ball.'"
Despite the loss, Hadley was just happy to see his team in live action for the first time this season.
The Cubs move on to face eighth-seeded Richland in a consolation semifinal at 5 p.m. Thursday.
"I'm excited. This is what I live for. I live for games like this," Hadley said. "Everyone thinks you can tell what you're going to do your first game, but you never know what's going to happen.
"It's not about how you start. It's about how you finish."
As for Joe Shoemaker, he wants to see his team put forth a better defensive effort while executing better on offense. He also understands his team can't afford to have a sluggish start against any of the remaining teams in pursuit of the title.
"If we get off to a slow start the next couple of nights, we're really going to be fighting an uphill battle," the ninth-year coach said. "We've got to be a little bit cleaner."
BELL CITY (55) -- Cole Nichols 19, Logan Yates 14, Bobby Wright 13, Taylor Ogden 4, Chase Dembowski 3, Austin Hicks 2. FG 20-44, FT 11-18, F 15. (3-pointers: Wright 2, Dembowski 1, Nichols 1. Fouled out: Yates.)
ORAN (75) -- Max Priggel 25, Jacob Shoemaker 24, Cole Priggel 8, Layne Johnson 7, Bradley Brooks 6, Drew Reischman 4, Ben Fox 1. FG 33-65, FT 6-13, F 19. (3-pointers: Shoemaker 2, M. Priggel 1. Fouled out: Wyatt Kinney.)
- Photos from the game (11/29/16)