By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Cabool, Mo. — Folks who were hoping for some good basketball to close out the holiday tournament week got their money’s worth in Cabool Friday night.
And then some.
In a championship clash between two of the area’s top small-school programs, Eminence scored 11 points in the second overtime period to upset previously-undefeated Thayer 61-56.
Down 53-52, Ethan Drake’s 3-pointer with 2:08 left put the Redwings up for good.
A perfect string of six-straight free throws from Reece Parish, Drake and Trent McBride sealed the championship.
Named tournament MVP, McBride talked about facing the daunting task presented by a team like Thayer.
“Thayer is one of the best teams around,” McBride said. “They have the best defense we’ve seen all year, and we just had to try to move the ball and rebound the best that we could, because they’re monsters on the glass.”
The final scoring burst was a stark contrast to the first overtime, where Eminence won the tip and then held the ball just inside midcourt for nearly the entire four-minute period. After failing to score, both teams headed to the second overtime just as they had at the end of regulation — tied 50-50.
Eminence head coach Pete McBride talked about the strategy and patience to run the clock for an extended period of time in such a high-stakes position.
“It’s hard, but it’s a chess match,” Coach McBride said. “We work on end-of-game stuff, and when we felt like they wanted to be back in a zone — even if it was going to be a two-, three-, four-minute standoff there — we wanted the last shot of the game,” McBride said. “We were willing to take that risk, and you take a chance to do what you think is right.”
Trent McBride led all scorers with 18 points. He was joined in double figures by Drake and Parish, who scored 16 and 11 points, respectively.
“[Trent] is a soldier,” Coach McBride said. “He’s wanted to be in this spot for a lot of years and had to miss it last year with an injury, so I knew he’d make the most of it. It’s hard on him, because he gets a lot of people around him in traffic, but he just keeps working and gets his teammates open, and I’m proud of him.”
While Drake and McBride filled up the box score for Eminence, the overtime periods belonged to Grant Dyer.
On every successful team, you’ll find a player that simply does whatever it takes to win.
For the Redwings, that was absolutely Dyer.
From the steal that set up Drake’s game-winning 3-pointer, to a rebound scrum off a missed free throw moments later, Dyer played the role of glue-guy to perfection.
“Grant is a great athlete,” Coach McBride said. “He’s super aggressive, and when he decides to go get a ball, there’s not many kids that can keep him from it. He’s a warrior, and he had to make some warrior plays down the stretch for us to win.”
On Eminence’s final shot of the first overtime, Dyer came crashing down the middle of the lane to grab the ball for a mid-air put back; however, the basket was waved off on an over-the-back foul call.
Drake had an earlier opportunity to win the game for Eminence, as well, on a deep 3-ball from the wing.
“I just knew I had to move on to the next shot,” Drake said. “After we went to overtime, I knew I had to hit it then.”
In a thrilling final between two teams with big postseason expectations, it’s almost a shame someone has to lose.
For Thayer head coach Matt Pitts, the message to his team was simple.
“I told them to keep their heads up,” Pitts said. “They didn’t lose the game. The clock ran out on us … that’s basically all you can say. They know, and they’re hurting in there, but they’ll look back one day and realize what they did tonight.”
For Thayer, that day might come sooner rather than later.
After post-holiday matchups at Alton next week, Thayer (11-1) and Eminence (9-1) play a regular-season rematch on Tuesday, Jan. 9, in Eminence.
“That’s the fun part of it,” Pitts said. “We’ve battled with them for a long time, and it will be the same way when we go over there. They’ll be ready, and so will we.”
Ayden Stone led the Bobcats with 14 points. He was joined in double figures by Dylan Spencer and Trevor Jenkins, who each scored 13.
Eminence – 61, Thayer – 56 (2OT)
Eminence 14 20 09 07 00 11 — 61
Thayer 15 16 09 10 00 06 — 56
Eminence scoring: Trent McBride – 18, Ethan Drake – 16, Reece Parish – 11, Kyndall Copeland – 6, Wade Dyer – 6, Grant Dyer – 4
Thayer scoring: Ayden Stone – 14, Dylan Spencer – 13, Trevor Jenkins – 13, Jalen Andrews – 8, Braden Hofstedler – 6, Remington Childers – 2