The SoBoCo Eagles spent much of the first three quarters of their opening round game in the Southern Boone Classic watching the Boonville Pirates drive the lane, break the Eagles press and blocking SoBoCo inside shots.
That the Eagles won 59-57 to advance to the semi-finals was not as much a surprise as it was a stunner to Boonville that the Pirates collapsed in the closing minutes.
Down 40-31 late in the third period, the Eagles began to force the Pirates into mistakes, turnovers and fouls.
Race Gilmore hit a 3-pointer at the end of the period to pull the Eagles back to within six at 42-36 and the SoBoCo defense forced three consecutive Boonville turnovers to start the fourth period. In that time, Gilmore hit another three, Sam Stichnote hit a pair of free throws and got a put-back to bounce off the rim and go in and the Eagles went ahead 45-44 on Brady Trammell’s backdoor layup.
Blake Dunn came off the bench and gave the Eagles energy on defense and hit a key basket, moments after being blocked by Boonville’s Semaj Clark on one of the top defensive plays in the Classic thus far.
“Blake’s a fighter and he came right back down the court and hit a basket that was big for us,” said Eagles coach Andy Jahnsen. “He lifted us with his effort and his effort.”
The Eagles edged ahead 50-49 on Gilmore’s two free throws and on the ensuing inbounds, Trammell stole the ball threaded a pass to Stichnote for a layup and a 52-49 lead. That lead held up in the final 1:37 as the Eagles were just good enough at the free throw line to hold off the Pirates.
The SoBoCo effort in the second half was the opposite of their first half free throw shooting.
The Eagles missed seven free throws, clunking a few off the side of the rim or the backboard. The offense was equally out of synch, missing open shots, missing layups and not passing the ball well.
However, the Eagles did just enough to stay in the game for three quarters and set themselves up for a comeback win.
“We did just enough to survive and play in the next round,” Jahnsen said. “I give these guys credit for finding a way to win when it wasn’t their night shooting the ball. They stayed together, played tougher defense and found a way to win.”
The Eagles will face Fulton in the semifinals on Thursday at 6 p.m. The Hornets will look to avenge their only loss of the season that came when SoBoCo defeated them in the finals of the California Tournament.
The Hornets defeated the Linn Wildcats 59-43 in Tuesday’s late game, in other action:
• Top seed Hallsville defeated the California Pintos by a 79-72 score.
• Harrisburg topped Fatima 72-63 and will play Hallsville in the semi-finals.