Smith-Cotton’s Tigers stayed close to the Branson Pirates for about a quarter in the first round of the Smith-Cotton McDonald’s Classic Thursday night at the Smith-Cotton Junior High School.
However, the Tigers were no match for the scrappy quickness of the Pirates’ man-to-man defense for most of the night in a 66-37 loss.
The first two games of the McDonald’s Classic were played at Smith-Cotton, the second one finishing in darkness after lightning destroyed a generator near the school.
S-C, 3-7 on the season, turned the ball over on their first four possessions and the Pirates took advantage to build a quick 7-0 lead.
The Tigers turned the ball over seven times in the first quarter and 14 times in the game. The Pirate scored on 10 of those 14 miscues.
Dakota Brown finally stopped the bleeding with a 15-foot jumper to get the Tigers on the board at 7-2. Before the period ended, Dalton Christian had scored seven of his team-high 18 points and sank the first of his two treys on the night. Chance Johnson buried a trey in the first quarter and the Tigers were within 15-10 after one quarter.
From that point on, it was all Pirates. Picking up the Tigers man-to-man at half-court, the Pirates often had time to switch defenders on the ball-handler. That suffocated the Tiger offense, as Branson took a 31-18 lead into halftime.
Christian made a free throw to start the second quarter, but Branson ran off an 8-0 run to open up a 26-11 lead.
“It was lack of execution,” said S-C Coach Ray Hughes, in his first season at the Tiger helm. “There were some things we wanted to do against that switching, we just didn’t do them.”
Things didn’t get any better for the Tigers in the second half, despite the fact that they had only five turnovers in the second half.
A hurried missed shot by the Tigers often resulted in a quick outlet pass, a bullet pass to midcourt, followed by a sharp pass to a Pirate cutting to the basket for a layup or a long three pointer.
Branson made five treys in the game, but it seemed like millions. Pirate senior guard Thatch Unruh gunned in four treys as part of his 16 points. Six-foot-three senior forward Chandler Hall led Branson with 21 points, most of those coming off the offensive glass. Junior guard Da’ Quan Ervin added 10 with two treys.
S-C’s Zac Wolf made a pair of buckets near halftime to get S-C within 31-18.
Branson opened up a 57-30 lead after three quarters and scored two straight two pointers to start the mercy clock running early in the fourth with the score 61-30.
The Tigers never got closer than 25 the rest of the way.
“They (Branson) are really good team and they’ve played some tough competition,” said Hughes. “Kickapoo is really good and so is Parkview.”
Branson improved to 10-4 on the season.
In other first-round games in the McDonald’s Classic Thursday night, Springfield Parkview walloped Southwest EEC (KC) 76-40, Moberly edged Eldon 40-39 with the final 20 seconds played in the dark at Smith-Cotton, and Rock Bridge walloped Kansas City East 76-53 at the Smith-Cotton Junior High.
On Friday, KC Southwest took on Eldon and Kansas City East played Smith-Cotton in consolation bracket games, while Parkview took on Moberly and Rock Bridge met Branson in semifinal contests. Photos by Randy Kirby, Sedalia News Journal.