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By: Corey Stott
SHELBYVILLE, Mo.- (1/18/21-1/23/21)- Coach Jeremy Austin’s young Scotland County Tiger squad (6-7) has had a steep learning curve the past year-and-a-half. But the team has shown improvement as the season has worn on, and the 33rd annual North Shelby Tournament looked to be an opportunity for this team to showcase that improvement.
The week kicked off for the #3 seeded Tiger men on Monday night, as they faced the #6 seeded La Plata Bulldogs. Both teams started off slow, and it was 7-7 after one quarter of play. The second quarter saw both teams finally come to life. Scotland County outscored La Plata 17-15 to take a 24-22 halftime lead.
“We looked flat,” Austin said after the game. “We played a solid two-and-a-half, almost three quarters where we did nothing very fluidly, and then we finally started picking things up. Our defense sparked all of that.”
The defense did indeed spark a push to victory. The Tigers outscored the Bulldogs 18-13 in the third period, largely in part to transition points off turnovers that the defense forced. A Carson Harrison transition lay-in with 1:55 left in the quarter pushed the Tigers in front 36-35 and they never looked back. Scotland County kept their foot on the gas with a 22-8 edge in the fourth quarter to secure the 64-43 victory.
Harrison led the scoring with 18 points. Junior center Xavier Lucas had 14 points on the night. Both players found their points in the paint. “I thought we did a good job inside once we got rolling,” Austin said. “We had some really good physical moves there in that second half and that kind of broke things open for us.”
Next up for the Tigers was a championship semi-final against familiar foe Schuyler County. The Rams took advantage of several early Tiger turnovers and jumped out to a 16-13 first quarter lead.
Kabe Hamlin scored in the paint in the first minute of the second period to draw the Tigers within one. He then secured an offensive rebound for the put-back nearly 30 seconds later to give the Tigers a 17-16 lead. Both teams traded the lead until Hamlin scored on another drive in the lane, followed by a transition lay-up for Corbyn Spurgeon and a three-pointer by Owen Triplett to build a 31-24 lead. The Tigers ended the quarter with a 20-11 scoring margin over Schuyler County and led 33-27 at the half.
The Tigers continued to pound the ball inside and kept up the defensive pressure in the second half. They outscored Schuyler County 23-7 in the third quarter and 18-11 in the fourth to rack up an impressive 74-45 win.
Hamlin led all scorers with 21 and Harrison scored 20. Trevyn Small had 14 for the Rams, and freshman Kale Windy scored 12.
“There were some pretty poor stretches early where we got away from what we wanted to do,” Austin noted after the game. “As it went on though, we did a better job of executing. We knew we should have a bit of an advantage if we got the ball inside.”
The stage was set for Scotland County to square off with the host team North Shelby Raiders in a Saturday night championship match. The #4 seeded Raiders had already beaten #5 South Shelby and knocked off #1 Knox County to punch their ticket into the championship game.
Scotland County came out aggressively and jumped out to an early 10-4 lead with 3:35 left in the first quarter by attacking the paint. Raiders coach Landon Daniel called a timeout and had an “aggressive attention getting pep-talk” with his team. His squad responded and went on a 14-0 run to end the period. North Shelby led 18-10 after one quarter.
Hamlin finally broke the Tiger scoring drought near the end of the first minute of the second period. The Tigers went on a 6-0 run and made it 20-16 at the 5:52 mark. But a series of fouls and turnovers followed, and the Raiders once again opened-up a lead. In the final minute of the half, the Tigers managed to pull back within four and trailed 29-25 at the intermission.
The start of the third quarter was a sign of bad things to come. The Raiders opened with a three-pointer from Kyle Smith which was followed by a charge by Harrison. After getting within five of the Raiders at the 6:12 mark, the wheels began to fall off for Scotland County.
A Tiger foul that put the Raiders on the line was compounded by an ill-advised technical foul, and the Raiders made all four free throws. Then, on the next possession which was awarded to them after the technical foul, they nailed a three-pointer, and the Raider lead was suddenly 49-32.
All the momentum was with North Shelby to end the third, and they led the Tigers 51-36 after outscoring them 22-11 in the period. Scotland County edged North Shelby 20-16 in the fourth quarter, but the hole had been dug. The Tigers were defeated 67-56 and brought home the second-place plaque.
Harrison led all scorers with 22 points. Hamlin and Lucas each finished with 11. Brendyn McDaniel led the Raiders with 16 points, and Smith scored 13.
“We didn’t do a great job of handling their pressure,” Austin said. “We gave away some easy baskets. Those are the ones that hurt us the most because they’re momentum killers.”
But Austin was quick to take a big-picture view of the week. “If you just look at the microcosm of this one game, then you’re missing the benefit of the entire week. We didn’t come in here expecting to be in a championship game. Yeah, we’re disappointed that we didn’t win that third game, but there was a whole tournament of great basketball that we just played.”