NMCC boys basketball team eliminated from SEMO Conference Tournament consolation bracket

Thursday, December 7, 2017
New Madrid County Central's Austin Davis (14) attempts a shot over Poplar Bluff's Adrian Webb (12) during a SEMO Conference Tournament consolation semifinal Wendesday, Dec. 6, 2017, at the Sikeston Field House. (Chris Pobst/Standard Democrat)

SIKESTON – Trying to stay alive in the SEMO Conference Tournament, New Madrid County Central couldn’t keep up with Poplar Bluff’s firepower Wednesday in the consolation semifinals.

Dominique Hardimon scored a game-high 21 points to guide the fifth-seeded Mules to an 18-point halftime lead that nearly doubled over the eighth-seeded Eagles in the second half en rout to a, 83-51 final.

“The thing that we’ve said after every game is the effort is there,” NMCC head coach Travis Day said. “We just have to learn how to minimize our mistakes right now. We’re having way too many mistakes and if we can ever minimize those we’re going to be a lot better.”

Back-to-back 3-pointers to start the game set the tone early for Poplar Bluff, but NMCC kept up with its foe for the better part of the first quarter.

New Madrid County Central's Kevon Williams (34) attempts a shot against Poplar Bluff during a SEMO Conference Tournament consolation semifinal Wendesday, Dec. 6, 2017, at the Sikeston Field House. (Chris Pobst/Standard Democrat)

After a Christian Phillips layup knotted the game at 11 with 1:18 remaining in the first quarter, the Mules took a lead they never surrendered.

Six-straight points to end the half started a 17-2 Poplar Bluff run that put the Mules (3-1) ahead 28-13 with 5:38 left in the half.

“We shot a lot better,” Poplar Bluff head coach William Durden said. “We started off shooting better in the first half and honestly we play a whole lot better when we make the first couple shots. It’s a struggle when we don’t.

“Last night we played probably our best defensive game in like two years and we still lost. I didn’t know how the kids were going to react to that and I think they reacted pretty well.”

NMCC (3-4) was never able to close their deficit to single digits again. Another six unanswered Poplar Bluff points later in the half sent the Mules into the locker room with a 43-25 lead.

“We’ve pressed a little bit this year,” Durden said. “We didn’t try to press Cape last night, but these guys (NMCC) are a little younger and shakier with the ball. We were hoping we could get a couple turnovers and we did. It turned in to layups. Our shooting is way up when we do that. That’s a lot of stuff we didn’t do yesterday.”

Poplar Bluff’s advantage grew to 25 points to enter the fourth quarter, 66-41, and with 5:41 to play a Tyler Cline basket kicked in the turbo-clock.

Poplar Bluff's Dominique Hardimon (20) drives to the basket against New Madrid County Central's Demetrius Moore (52) during a SEMO Conference Tournament consolation semifinal Wendesday, Dec. 6, 2017, at the Sikeston Field House. (Chris Pobst/Standard Democrat)

The Mules' biggest lead of the night, 35 points, came in the closing minutes before they coasted to an 83-51 final that sets up a meeting Friday night against second-seeded Charleston in the consolation finals.

“Who would have thought you were going to face the two or three seed on the losing side of the bracket,” Durden said. “I’m glad to play on the last day of the SEMO Conference Tournament. That’s an accomplishment in itself when you can always go two-and-out pretty quick here.

“This year all the teams are even and everyone can get beat on any given night. But I didn’t think we were going to be playing Charleston or Jackson in the finals of the consolation bracket.”

Hardimon’s 21 points came with a 7 of 8 effort at the free throw line. Rodney Houston finished with 12 points and Xander Martin scored 11 points, hitting three of the team’s eight 3-pointers.

For NMCC, Johnny Walker scored a team-high 14 points while Austin Davis was close behind with 11 points.

NMCC shot 20 of 47 (43 percent) from the field, hitting four 3-pointers. Poplar Bluff was 32 of 55 (58 percent) for the game, including a 10 of 16 effort (63 percent) in the second quarter where they outscored the Eagles 28-16.

“Right now our turnovers are turning in to points for the other team,” Day said. “We have to minimize that. That’s what’s hurting us right now in the big games, where teams are getting easy baskets off our turnovers.”

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NMCC (51) – Thailin Marsh 5, Johnnie Walker 14, Austin Davis 11, Gra Palmer 2, Christian Phillips 4, Bryshawn Williams 2, Kevon Williams 4, Demetrius Moore 2, Donnie Brown 7. FG 20, FT 7-9, F 13. (3-pointers: Marsh 1, Walker 2, Davis 1. Fouled out: none.)

POPLAR BLUFF (83) – Jaylon Lathon 4, Tyler Cline 8, Joseph Hardimon 6, Rodney Houston 12, Xander Martin 11, Adrian Webnb 3, Carlton McDonald 9, DFominique Hardimon 21, Isaiah Johnson 2, Nik Rowland 5. FG 32, FT 9-12, F 13. (3-pointers: Cline 2, Martin 3, Webb 1, McDonald 1, Rowland 1. Fouled out: none.)

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