Malden outlasts late Portageville surge to win 42-39

Malden's Sientez Lerma shoots the ball, against Portageville, on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, at Portageville High School, in Portageville, Mo.
Alex Wallner/Standard Democrat

PORTAGEVILLE, Mo. — Down three points and time winding down, the Portageville boys basketball team had a pair of chances to tie the game up, against Malden, on Friday.

Sophomore Alex Winsor drove into the lane, drew the defense in, and kicked it out to junior Kelan Bills for a three-pointer in the right corner. Bills’ attempt hit the side of the rim, but Winsor found a way to gather the rebound for a second chance and tried to kick it out to junior Drew Irby for another attempt to tie the contest.

However, a whistle blew, and a travel got called to give the Green Wave possession and ultimately seal a 42-39 victory and spoil Portageville’s homecoming.

Ice cold shooting would be one to describe the Bulldogs night.

Portageville shot 13 of 49 (26%) from the floor and were 7 of 28 (25%) in the first half.

“Some of the shots were not great looks,” Portageville head coach Jason Irby said. “We shoot every day like I’m sure most teams do. Sometimes they go in; sometimes they don’t. I thought we passed up some good ones; we got a little afraid and fearful of the situation. We have to have those shots; we can’t be afraid to take them.”

Despite the cold shooting, the Bulldogs continued to battle down the stretch.

After a third-quarter, that saw Malden outscore Portageville 13-5, the Bulldogs responded in the final period. They wound up outscoring Malden 15-11 during the last eight minutes of action.

Even with a furious comeback from the Bulldogs, the Green Wave continued to remain calm. Their demeanor never wavered, including after a controversial call toward the end of the contest.

With Malden in possession, the Bulldogs forced the Green Wave near the halfcourt line, and eventually got a backcourt call. However, after the official brought both head coaches together, he stated that Portageville did touch the ball to force a jump ball, giving the Bulldogs the ball back, and setting up the final sequence.

“We’ve played in about all close games this year,” Malden head coach Cole McBroom said. “Our kids are learning what it takes to win close games. That’s a huge step for us in winning close games. I just reminded them that we’ve been in this situation before; we were in this situation Tuesday night. We were in this situation twice last week, and we’re starting to step up.”

Heading into Friday night, the preparation was simple for McBroom’s team — play at a faster pace.

Portageville, though, did withstand that pace and didn’t commit many turnovers as a result. The Bulldogs finished with seven miscues.

“They did such a good job of handling our pressure and making us work defensively,” said McBroom of Portageville’s poise. “We couldn’t do that. We couldn’t get up-and-down because they did such a good job of executing their game plan. So, we had to adjust.

“Coach Irby, in my opinion, is one of the best coaches in Southeast Missouri. I think a lot of him. He did such a great job of instilling a game plan, and they executed, and we had to adjust.”

Sophomore Sientez Lerma led Malden with 13 points, while junior Chris Castillo pitched in with 11.

Lerma shot 6 of 10 from the floor, with six rebounds, while Castillo also shot 5 of 9 with five rebounds.

Sophomore Marques Jones finished with eight points on 4 of 10 shooting, but did his best work on the glass, with 10 rebounds.

“He likes to pop out some, so we wanted to make him shoot it from out there,” said Irby of his team’s strategy against Jones. “I know he can make some, but at least if he’s shooting out there, he’s not hurting us on the glass. Try to take charges and play physical, and I thought we did a pretty good job on him.”

Drew Irby led Portageville with 11 points, on 3 of 20 shooting (all three-pointers), with five rebounds.

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MALDEN (42) — Sientez Lerma 13, Chris Castillo 11, Coy Wade 8, Marques Jones 8, Lamar Smith 2. FG 18, FT 6-13, F 11. (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: none)

PORTAGEVILLE (39) — Drew Irby 11, Brendan Garmon 9, Kelan Bills 6, Trey Townsend 5, Jabryson Rand 3, Joey Chamberlain 3, Alex Winsor 2. FG 13, FT 5-6, F 12. (3-pointers: Irby 3, Rand, Townsend, Chamberlain. Fouled out: none)

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