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Porter leads Scott County Central into Class 1 title game
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- A hush fell over the Hearnes Center when Otto Porter crashed to the floor and remained there late in the third quarter Thursday.
Porter, Scott County Central's standout forward, got to his feet and looked woozy as he walked over to the bench under the watchful eye of assistant coach Ronnie Cookson.
Braves fans didn't have to wait long to exhale.
Porter checked back into the game 1 minute, 11 seconds later.
Porter's fall was about the only thing that didn't go right in the Braves' 86-53 dismantling of Dadeville in their Class 1 boys basketball state semifinal Thursday.
"It knocked the wind out of me a little bit," Porter said. "Once I got up, I knew there wasn't really anything wrong with me."
Braves coach Kenyon Wright said he wasn't fazed by watching his leading scorer hit the floor hard.
"He's a tough-minded kid," Wright said. "He gets knocked down, he's going to get right back up, right back on the horse again. He's one of those kids, for the most part, unless he's got a broken limb, he's going to be ready to go pretty soon."
Porter wasted no time dominating the Bearcats (29-2). He outscored Dadeville 28-24 in the first half, which tied for second the biggest point total in a half at the final four. Dave Brent set the record with 31 points in a half for Sumner in 1969.
"Once I got my rhythm, it was kind of just going in for me," he said. "I just kept playing hard and buckets started to fall."
Porter hit from all over the floor. He collected offensive rebounds and put them back for buckets and even flashed his range by hitting a jumper from the corner just inside the 3-point line.
"That's my range," he said. "If I start hitting that, then I know things are going right. I could [hit 3s] but 2s are easier to score."
Porter connected on 14 of his 15 attempts from the field in the first half as the Braves (28-2) vaulted to a 53-24 lead at the intermission.
"I see him all the time in practice," SCC senior guard Bobby Hatchett said of Porter. "Once he hitting, you got to keep giving him the ball. Somebody got to be hitting. Most of the time it be him. You keep feeding him."
The Bearcats came away impressed by the Braves' big man.
"He's got speed and you've got a big guy guarding him and he takes it outside and starts knocking down jumpers," Dadeville coach Michael Linehan said. "You're thinking, 'OK we've got to give him a little bit of a cushion if he tries to attack' and then starts lighting it up."
The record for points in a game at the final four is 61, and Hatchett has joked in the past that he thinks Porter could top that mark. He almost was halfway there at the break Thursday, but Porter told Hatchett to take the scoring lead after halftime.
"I wasn't hitting the first half, so he was like, 'Man, this your half,'" Hatchett said. "I was telling him to keep going. We were going back and forth. Hey, whoever hitting, hitting. We just want to win. We love each other."
Porter only scored five points in the second half while Hatchett added nine. Porter finished with 33, while Hatchett scored 19.
"When you have Otto, you don't have to force things," Hatchett said. "He can hit buckets and I know once I get one, I can hit buckets. I just be relaxed and do my job, get everybody else involved."
Porter, a junior, has drawn interest from multiple Division I programs, including the University of Missouri. His performance Thursday -- 33 points and 14 rebounds -- likely will draw even more attention from college coaches.
"I don't know how to get used to it, but you've got to get used to it somehow," Porter said. "I've still got another year. It doesn't bother me any."
The Braves set the tempo from the start. They scored the first eight points and padded their lead to 20-6 with 1:47 left in the first quarter. They built their lead to 30-9 when Porter dribbled the length of the court and laid it in for an easy score.
"Once I started hitting, in the middle of the first and second quarter, that's when I knew it was on," Porter said.
The Braves ended the first half on an 11-2 run that ended with Lawrence Woodson knocking down a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Bearcats never threatened in the second half. The entire fourth quarter was played with a running clock, and Porter and Hatchett exited the game with 5:15 left in the fourth quarter.
The Braves didn't show any emotion after the final horn. The players walked off the court without any celebration.
"We aren't going to be satisfied until we win," Hatchett said. "Then that's when we'll jump around. But until then, we've got to stay focused."
The Braves will try to defend their state title Saturday when they face Pilot Grove at 8:20 p.m. at Mizzou Arena.
"We got to come out real hard like we did today and we got to come out focused," Porter said.