South Pemiscot hoops rides tough schedule en route to maturity

South Pemiscot High School defenders Robert Farmer III (2) and Tyriquis Campbell (right) swarm Puxico sophomore guard Landan Burchard on Saturday in the MSHSAA Class 2 Quarterfinal 1 game at Three Rivers College in Poplar Bluff.
D'Courtland Christian -

With less than 90 seconds remaining in its MSHSAA Class 2 Quarterfinal 1 game with Puxico on Saturday, the South Pemiscot boy’s basketball squad came over to the bench for a timeout following an Indian basket, which put Puxico up 46-43.

“They could have given up, right there,” fourth-year Bulldog coach Jordan McGowan recalled. “Puxico had hit a big dagger on us. I kind of felt the air come out of the sail a little bit.”

McGowan may have felt that way, but his incredibly young roster never did.

“They sat down and made straight eye contact with me,” McGowan continued. “There was never any doubt whether they were in or out of the game.”

Most of Southeast Missouri now knows of what transpired over the remaining minute-plus.

South Pemiscot rallied for a dramatic last-second 50-48 win and will now travel to Columbia on Wednesday to face Hartville (27-2) in the State Semifinal at 2 p.m.

McGowan’s team has just one senior (Jadie Morton) and utilizes two freshmen (Tyriquis Campbell and Damarius Mayberry), three sophomores (Robert Farmer III, Jaterion Smith, and Logan Southern), and one junior (Torrell Boyd) on a team that is succeeding despite its youth, which begs the question: How?

The answer to that question is a multitude of reasons, but mostly because McGowan has thrown his guys to the wolves early and often throughout their careers.

“We play,” McGowan said, “in my opinion, in the second toughest conference in the area.”

McGowan was forced to give playing time to the young athletes due to necessity, and it also helps that the Bootheel Conference is a nightly challenge for every team in the league.

“Those kids are good enough to compete,” McGowan said. “They've done a great job listening to what we're trying to do, and I've been blessed with coachable kids the last four years.”

South Pemiscot (17-9) didn’t come out of the gates in November rolling over opponents. This was a season, and a team, that methodically got better each time the sun rose.

“We could have a totally different record,” McGowan said. “It didn't start clicking until about mid-January.”

On January 12, the Bulldogs fell to Portageville in Steele, which lowered their mark to 5-6. However, the young kids were working, listening, and improving, and tore off on a five-game win streak.

Of the Bulldogs’ nine defeats, six have come by single digits, including losses to Van Buren (22 wins), and Malden (21 wins) twice.

“Once it clicked,” McGowan said, “we’ve been on a pretty good run.”

South Pemiscot has won seven straight games over opponents, who combined for 117 victories this season, and as the team matured, so did its confidence.

“Our athletic director (Jason House) has done a phenomenal job of where we can have a tough schedule and compete,” McGowan said. “We make it where we have to play some teams to get us ready for this point.”

To that end, South Pemiscot’s final four points against Puxico were scored by its freshmen, Mayberry and Campbell.

“Our conference has definitely gotten us ready for this moment,” McGowan said.

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