By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Walnut Grove, Mo. — The comeback took some extra time, but No. 3 Pierce City was up to the challenge.
Down 11 points at the start of the fourth quarter to No. 1 Billings, the Eagles battled back to capture a 55-50 overtime victory in the Walnut Grove Holiday Classic championship.
Colten O’Hara’s 3-pointer with 46 seconds left in regulation tied up the score at 48-48 and capped a 10-2 finishing run for Pierce City.
Billings junior Jacob Henry scored the opening basket in overtime; however, the Wildcats would not score another point, as Pierce City’s defense forced four-straight turnovers to end the game, including a game-ending charge taken by senior Jackson Kleiboeker.
“I knew we were up four at that point, so one possession wasn’t going to do it,” Kleiboeker said. “I figured they were going to get to the rim and get a quick score, so I played off my man a little bit and just happened to be in the right spot to make the play.”
Pierce City head coach Matt Street praised his team for its patience and execution at both ends of the court during the extended rally.
“We preach it all the time — we got one bucket, one stop, one bucket, one stop — and they buy into it,” Street said. “These kids work hard, they believe in themselves, they do things the right way and it paid off tonight.”
Wyatt Perry, O’Hara and Kleiboeker each posted double-figure scores for the Eagles with 13, 11 and 10 points, respectively.
A big third quarter from Billings helped break a tight game open and set the stage for Pierce City’s late-game heroics.
Up 24-22 at the break, Billings stretched its lead with Colten Plowman, Kyler Tennis and Jacob Henry pacing an 18-8 run.
Plowman and Henry combined for 27 points to lead the Wildcats.
In the final quarter, however, Pierce City’s defense began dictating the game’s pace, and the Eagles started slowly cutting into the lead.
“We were down 11, and we just chipped away and chipped away, and we got the stops we needed,” Street said. “Our defense was outstanding tonight, and I couldn’t be prouder of the way we guarded and the things that we did, so it goes on that end of the floor, for sure.”
As for Kleiboeker’s game-saving defensive play, Street was quick to point out the simple play epitomizes the team’s character this season.
“That’s huge,” Street said. “That’s a huge way to end the game, and that’s us — that’s who we are, that’s how we get a win and that’s big.”
Up next for Pierce City (8-2) is a Jan. 3 matchup at Cassville. Billings (8-3) hosts Verona that same evening.
Walnut Grove Boys Championship: Pierce City – 55, Billings – 50
Pierce City 11 11 08 18 07 — 55
Billings 08 16 15 09 02 — 50
Pierce City scoring: Wyatt Perry – 13, Colton O’Hara – 11, Jackson Kleiboeker – 10, Kyle Renkoski – 7, Aaron Garner – 6, Trey Sagehorn – 4, Trenton Kluck – 4
Billings scoring: Colton Plowman – 14, Jacob Henry – 13, Kyler Tennis – 9, Hayden Fender – 8, Braden Ray – 4, Jace Bradley – 2