By Mike Phillips
When the long-standing, often intense West Central Conference rivalry between the Smith-Cotton and Warrensburg Tigers hits the hardwoods, you can expect anything, including a dramatic finish.
Friday night’s rivalry renewal on Court Warming at the Smith-Cotton gym was no exception to the rule.
Following an S-C timeout with :02.5 seconds left, Warrensburg’s Dakota Jones took a crisp inbound pass, sidestepped an S-C defender and fired a jumper from just beyond the top of the key. Swish, nothing but net as Warrensburg won a nail-biter 47-45.
S-C Coach Ray Hughes took a quick time out with a little over a second left to try and draw up a tying or winning play. Warrensburg adjusted from a full-court press to a half-court, man-to-man press and didn’t allow S-C to get a shot off before the final horn sounded.
Warrensburg escaped to improve to 10-9 overall and evened their WCC record to 2-2. S-C fell to 6-12 overall and 1-5 in conference.
When Warrensburg needed a big short in the game, they usually got it in the form of the 5-foot-11 senior guard Jones. He led all scorers in the game with28 points and six three pointers.
S-C, who had a size advantage for the first time in a long while, had things going well early.
Freshman Chance Johnson scored seven of his 11 points in the first quarter Brady Ritzert canned a trey. Dalton Christian score four as did Zach Wolf, working the paint as S-C took a 15-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Johnson buried a jumper from the left corner and Christian made one of two free throws early in the second quarter as S-C opened its biggest lead of the night at 20-12.
From that point on, S-C had to fight to get shots off as Warrensburg switched from a zone to a tight, man-to-man and made life miserable for S-C.
S-C scored four points in the last six minutes of the second quarter. Warrensburg finished the half on a 14-4 run to take a 26-24 halftime lead.
From there the game was a chess match, with numerous lead changes and ties over the last two quarters.
Johnson made one of two free throws and Wolf scored a layup as S-C took the lead 27-26 early in the third quarter, but Warrensburg held S-C to three points the rest of the third quarter and led 35-30 after three quarters.
Wolf took a low post pass, spun and banked a shot in off the glass to get S-C within 35-34 early in the fourth.
It was a back-and-forth dogfight the rest of the way.
S-C scored two points in the last 4:07, that a late basket by Christian that tied the game 45-45.
In a basketball rarity, there were only 14 free throws shot in the game. S-C was eight of 12 while Warrensburg shot two and made both.
Christian led S-C with 12 points. Johnson added 11 with a trey and Ritzert had 10 with two three pointers.
Smith-Cotton 34, Warrensburg 24
Despite being held scoreless in the first quarter, S-C came from behind to win with great defense.
Trailing 5-0 at the end of the first quarter, S-C tied the game at 8-8 at the half and opened up a 22-18 lead after three quarters. S-C pulled away in the fourth with a 16-6 scoring advantage. Jac Greer had two treys in the fourth and Elena Sharp nailed a trey from the top of the key.
Greer led S-C, 11-9 overall and 3-2 in conference, with 13 points and three treys. Sharp had 12 with a trey. Megan Lollis made two steals and two straight layups in the second quarter to get S-C on the comeback trail. Photos by Randy Kirby, Sedalia News Journal.