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Thomas leads Braves to rout
Kelly coach Nathan Wills exchanged a few friendly words with Scott County Central guard Drew Thomas before Saturday's second round Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament game between the Hawks and Braves.
"I asked Drew before the game, I said, 'Are you feeling sick or anything? You need something to eat? I'll go get you something,'" Wills said.
Thomas wasn't feeling sick, and he declined Wills' food offer. The senior went on to put on a show against Wills' team, scoring 34 points for the top-seeded Braves.
Thomas and Scott County rolled past No. 8 Kelly 81-37 at the Show Me Center.
Thomas helped his team jump out to a 22-9 lead after the first quarter and a 50-16 advantage at halftime. Thomas scored 16 points in the second quarter alone.
Thomas led his team on an 8-0 run in the final 55 seconds of the first half by scoring four field goals, including two easy layups off two steals he created.
Maybe the only mistake Thomas made all day was when he missed a dunk about midway through the third quarter.
"This is my last year and I ain't got nothing to lose," Thomas said. "I just try to go hard every play every minute coach has me in the game."
Scott County (8-1) is the favorite, but hasn't won the tournament since 1990. The Braves have won the tournament just four times since the tournament's inaugural year in 1945.
Thomas said he feels a sense of urgency to help lead his team to a first-place finish because only a select number of Braves teams have won the tournament. And he realizes a number of talented Braves team, including teams his father played on, never won it.
"For us to be in the category with the other people who have won it, that [would be a] great feeling," Thomas said. "This tournament is one of the biggest we're going to play other than the state tournament. It would just be an honor to win it."
Wills said it's going to be tough for any team in the field to beat Scott County.
The Braves have outscored their first two opponents, Delta and Kelly, by a combined 169-61.
"It's going to take a monumental effort from somebody to give them a run," Wills said. "I think there are a couple of teams in here that can give them a couple problems. But they have so many weapons. If you catch Bobby [Hatchett] on a bad night, they are going to come back with Drew. If you catch Bobby and Drew on a bad night, then you've got Otto [Porter]. It's just one guy after another."
Porter scored 16 points. Hatchett had 10 points. Randy Timmons added 11.
"My assistant coach was commenting on how fast they score," Wills said. "They don't need an offense because three passes and they've got a bucket."
Thomas never stopped hustling when he was in the game. He scored 13 points in the third quarter before sitting out most of the fourth quarter because his team was ahead 71-26 entering that period.
"That's just Drew," Hatchett said. "He plays hard all the time. He just does what he's got to do. ... He was moving and he created a lot of steals."
Thomas has received some interest from Southeast Missouri State, and he said he is interested in playing for the Redhawks.
He also has received interest from some junior college programs.
He has switched from playing wing to guard this season. He said he still is adjusting to the guard position and needs to continue to work on being a better rebounder.
"The main reason [for the move to guard] is because when I go to college, I am going to be a guard," Thomas said. "I'm not going to be on the wing. I'm going to be the one that has the ball a lot, so coach just wanted me in a spot that would help me. And he thinks I'm doing good at that spot."
Thomas appears comfortable in his position. And Scott County appears comfortable in this tournament.
So do the Braves think they are a lock to win it?
"We're confident, but we're not big heads," Hatchett said. "We're just going to do what we have to do. We're just trying to go out and play hard."
@z_agate_no tab_no indnt_bld ld:Kelly (37) -- Ryan Essner 6, Josh DeBrock 2, Chase Smith 3, Levi Felter 8, Zach Essner 8, Andy Klunk 2, Eric Turley 8. FG 16, FT 2-8, F 12. (3-pointers: R. Essner 2, Smith 1. Fouled out: None)
Scott County Central (81) -- Bobby Hatchett 10, Nick Johnson 3, Drew Thomas 34, Randy Timmons 11, Chris Blissett 7, Otto Porter 16. FG 36, FT 6-8, F 11. (3-pointers: N. Johnson 1, Thomas 1, Blissett 1. Fouled out: None)