By Pat Dailey (For OzarkSportsZone.com)
CHADWICK — Jacob Stevens was disappointed to be a spectator for the final four minutes of Saturday’s Mark Twain Conference Tournament championship game. And the Chadwick point guard was blurry-eyed from a poke he took from a Bradleyville player in his left eye.
But Stevens liked what he saw, as the top-seeded Cardinals held off the third-seeded Eagles 71-65.
“It was terrible sitting over there on our bench and wanting to be out on the floor directing the team,” said Stevens, who scored 11 points, before being forced courtside midway through the fourth quarter. “At the end of the game, we had some turnovers that could have cost us. But it’s all good. The guys wrapped it up and I’m proud of them.”
Jarin Cunningham helped Chadwick more than hold its own a classic battle in the paint. The junior center exploded for a career-high 20 points. Cohort Jaron VanHouden added 11. They faced off against Bradleyville post player Ethan Todd, who had a game-high 24 points.
“It was difficult for me because he’s a pretty stout kid,” Cunningham said of Todd. “It was fun, though.”
“I’ve watched Ethan for four years and he’s hard worker, a physical kid who battles every possession,” Chadwick coach Shawn Guerin said. “He’s not going to take one possession off.”
“Ethan is a next-level type of player. He’s owned the paint for years and continued to do so tonight,” Bradleyville coach Josh Hume added. “(Cunningham) is physical inside and a very athletic and strong kid who works hard for them. He hasn’t got to play a lot of in the past. Tonight, he got his opportunity and took advantage of it.”
After VanHouden fouled out midway through the fourth quarter, Cunningham played the rest of the way. He had 12 of his 20 points in the second half to help enable the Cardinals to fend off repeated challenges by the Eagles.
Chadwick never gave up the lead in the second half, but Bradleyville tied the score on two occasions and was within point of the Cardinals a handful of times.
Cunningham converted on the biggest three-point play during the night. With the teams tied at 62-all and :52 remaining, he received a feed from Calvin Rains in the paint and went strong to the hoop for a layup as he was fouled.
“I said to myself, ‘I know I probably can dunk this. But if I miss (coach Guerin) will kill me,’” Cunningham said. “So, I just laid it up there.”
The title tilt was a thriller in front of a packed house. But both sides were happy the conference has voted to make this the final edition of the tourney.
“I’m absolutely happy it’s the last conference tournament and even happier that we won the last one,” Guerin said.
“I’ll try to be nice about it. I’m glad it’s over,” Hume said. ‘Now, we can play in another tournament and not see the same teams over and over.”
Chadwick 71, Bradleyville 65
Bradleyville 11 18 14 22 – 65
Chadwick 18 14 15 24 – 71
BRADLEYVILLE (65) — Todd 24, Smith 3, Curtis 11, Jennings 6, Blair 4, Hunsaker 8, Day 9.
CHADWICK (71) — Rozell 7, Gardner 6, Stevens 11, Ca. Rains 3, Gilbert 11, Cunningham 20, VanHouden 11, Cl. Rains 2.