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Scott County Central basketball team extends reign at Oran Invitational
Scott County Central claimed its fifth consecutive Oran Invitational title
ORAN, Mo -- The Scott County Central boys basketball team hasn't had to sweat out many close Oran Invitational wins in recent years.
That finally changed Friday night -- but the Braves didn't flinch.
Top-seeded SCC captured its fifth consecutive title at the 57th annual event, holding off a strong challenge from third-seeded Advance 75-71 in front of a packed gym at Oran High School.
"We had some choppy moments but we pulled the win out," SCC senior Jaylen Porter said. "Advance is a tough team. They did their homework on us."
The Braves' past four Oran Invitational championship-game victories had come by an average of just over 33 points.
Advance, which had fallen to SCC in three of the last four tournament finals, gave the Braves their closest call during that stretch when the Hornets lost by 21 points a year ago.
First-year SCC coach Frank Staple didn't expect anything resembling a blowout this time around, especially since the Braves returned just two experienced varsity players from last year's squad that won its fourth straight Class 1 state title.
"I knew full well Advance is very talented and well coached. We knew it was going to be a battle," Staple said. "It was good for the kids, to see they can win a game like that."
SCC junior Larandis Banks -- he and Porter started on last year's state championship team -- said the Braves were especially motivated to make it five straight Oran championships.
"We heard everybody saying we weren't going to win," Banks said. "We just had to come out on top."
The Braves (3-2) did, but it took just about everything they had to fend off the Hornets (2-1), who returned one of the area's most experienced squads.
Friday's contest was well-played and close throughout, with no double-figure lead. SCC threatened a few times to go on one of its patented, game-changing runs but Advance always managed to stem the tide.
The first half featured eight ties and three lead changes. SCC built a pair of seven-point leads late in the second quarter but Advance rallied for a 39-39 deadlock at the break.
"It was a tough game but I enjoyed it," Advance coach Andrew Halford said. "Tough competition early in the season to see where we're at."
Advance went ahead 44-41 early in the third quarter to match its biggest lead of the night.
The Braves answered with their biggest run of the night, an 11-0 burst capped by Porter's 3-pointer that made it 52-44 with just over three minutes left in the third period.
Porter drilled another 3-pointer about a minute later to put SCC up 55-46 for the game's largest advantage.
Advance steadied itself by scoring the final four points of the quarter, cutting the deficit to 55-50 and setting the stage for a thrilling final period.
The Braves and Hornets traded baskets for most of the last quarter. Three times Advance pulled within two points and never lagged by more than six points.
Senior Ethan Barr's basket with 45 seconds left got Advance within 70-69 and sent the Hornets' fans into a frenzy.
"It was tough," Staple said of the situation.
But the Braves stayed strong, led by the athletic Banks. He scored on an acrobatic drive to the basket with 36 seconds left and was fouled. He completed the three-point play to make it 73-69.
After an Advance turnover, Banks' layup with 20 seconds remaining put SCC up 75-69 and the Hornets simply didn't have enough time left to come back.
"He's our closer," Staple said of Banks.
Banks scored nine of his 23 points in the fourth quarter. Also putting in nine final-period points was senior Tyler Masters, a first-year starter.
"He's our glue guy," Staple said of Masters. "He has really stepped up."
Porter, like Banks, was his normal productive self with a game-high 25 points. He hit four 3-pointers.
"We just had guys step up when they needed to. We had guys making big plays at the end," Staple said. "Guys fighting and showing a lot of heart."
Advance had four players score in double figures, led by senior Trey Wallace with 20 points. Barr added 19 points, followed by junior Lane Below with 14 and senior Tyler Middleton with 10.
"The effort's there. We had some breakdowns," said Halford, whose squad committed 17 turnovers, not an unusually high number against SCC's relentless pressure.
While Advance could take solace in a gritty performance, the Braves just keep on compiling championships regardless of how much turnover their roster experiences.
"People think because we're not big, we don't have [former standout] Otto [Porter], we're not a force," said Banks, who added with a smile: "But we still got it."
ADVANCE (71) -- Tyler Middleton 10, Lane Below 14, Trey Wallace 20, Curtis Gilliland 8, Ethan Barr 19. FG 28, FT 11-12, F 15. (3-pointers: Middleton 2, Below 2. Fouled out: none)
SCOTT COUNTY CENTRAL (75) -- Chris Brown 2, Larandis Banks 23, Tyler Masters 13, Blain Johnson 2, Jaylen Porter 25, Kendall Blissett 8, Cameron Blisset 2. FG 31, FT 9-13, F 12. (3-pointers: Porter 4. Fouled out: none)