New Madrid beats Central boys basketball team at buzzer

Sunday, January 13, 2013
Cape Central’s Jaml Cox takes a shot over New Madrid County Central’s JaShawn McDaniel during the Tigers’ game against the Eagles on Friday at Central High School. (ADAM VOGLER)

Willie Jimerson, the New Madrid County Central sophomore guard who spent most of Friday night's boys basketball game hypnotizing Central with his quickness and ball handling wizardry, saved his best magic trick for last.

With 4.4 seconds remaining in a tie game, Jimerson took an inbounds pass, wove his way through three Tigers defenders and, from midcourt near the right sideline, launched a prayer that banked off the glass and in as the buzzer sounded, giving the Eagles a thrilling 52-49 SEMO Conference victory before a raucous crowd at Central High School.

"Coach said if you get alone, go for it," said Jimerson, who scored 16 points as the Eagles squared their season mark at 6-6. "I said I could get it down the court in 4.4 seconds. I just knocked it down."

And what was he thinking while the ball hung in the air?

"I just prayed," he laughed.

Prayer answered. But Jimerson's game-winner was just one in a number of big plays down the stretch by both teams. It culminated a wild final 1 minute, 38 seconds that saw Central storm back from a seven-point deficit to tie the score at 49-49 with 4.4 seconds left.

Trailing 48-41, Central's Garan Evans hit a pullup jumper and teammate Sentrell Blackmon hit one of two free throws to pull the Tigers within 48-44 at the 1:07 mark. Then Evans drove the lane and found teammate Mikey Jones underneath for a layup that made it 48-46 with 20.4 seconds left.

Forced to foul, Cape Central sent the Eagles' Mikeal Walker to the line, and the sophomore hit the first before missing the second, and a tie-up on the loose ball gave Cape Central the ball trailing 49-46.

Evans brought the ball upcourt and, unable to find an open teammate, launched a weak 3-pointer that hit the front of the rim and bounced off. Jamal Cox came away with the loose ball and hit the follow-up, drawing a foul in the process. His free throw tied the score at 49-49 with 4.4 seconds left, setting up Jimerson's heroics.

NMCC coach Travis Day chuckled when asked if that's how he drew up the final play during a timeout huddle.

"Yeah, right," he laughed. "It's a good win, but as a coach, you never want to be in that situation."

Central coach Drew Church lamented his team's turnovers and inability to keep the Eagles off the offensive glass.

"[Jimerson's] shot went in, but that didn't beat us," Church said. "The first two-and-a-half quarters is what beat us. I'll bet we gave [NMCC] 40 extra possessions. When you give someone that many second chances, it's hard to win."

Central turned the ball over 16 times, including four times in the first period when NMCC opened a 15-8 lead. Central closed within 21-18 midway through the second quarter, but the Eagles closed the half with an 8-4 run to lead 29-22 at intermission.

Central used its size advantage inside after halftime to chip away at the lead. A 9-4 Tigers run made it 33-31 before Jimerson hit a spinner in the lane to push the Eagles' lead to 35-51.

Central didn't flinch. Evans' 3-pointer from the wing knotted the score at 37-37 with 1:55 left in the third, and the teams traded baskets to enter the final period tied at 41-41.

Delontre Haney -- who played three years at Central before transferring to NMCC -- rattled off seven straight points for a 48-41 Eagles lead with 2:19 left. The senior forward led the Eagles with 20 points, an effort somewhat overshadowed by Jimerson's game-winning shot.

"He's a smart player," Evans, who led the Tigers (8-5) with 20 points, said of his former teammate. "Obviously, just over the summer, he's worked on his game quite a bit. He's a strong kid, and we couldn't really hold 'em tonight. [Haney] played a good game."

Haney admitted to looking forward to this game against his former teammates.

"I was looking forward to it from the first day the schedule came out," he smiled.

His presence inside -- especially in the fourth quarter -- was as important to the Eagles' win as was Jimerson's final shot.

"I was just demanding the ball inside every time down the court," Haney said.

Cox, who added 10 points for the Tigers, was obviously dejected.

"I was just hoping [Jimerson's shot] wouldn't go in," he said. "He was just in the right place at the right time and he put it in."

Church pointed to Central's inability to hit free throws at crucial times. The Tigers were 14 of 23 from the line, including just 2 of 6 in the fourth quarter.

"We haven't shot free throws very well," he noted. "That doesn't win every game, but it wins a lot of the close ones."

The 16 turnovers also hurt.

"We've got to understand that every possession is important," Church said. "I'm proud of our kids for battling back, but we've just got to play smarter."

New Madrid15141211--52
Cape Central814198--49

NMCC (52) -- Willie Jimerson 16, Armando Thatch 2, Mikeal Walker 5, Delontre Haney 20, Darrin McGlosan 6. FG: 19. FT: 13-20. F: 19. (3-pointers: Jimerson 1. Fouled out: none.)

CAPE CENTRAL (49) -- Sentrell Blackmon 5, Al Young 4, Garan Evans 20, Jamal Cox 10, Mikey Jones 6, Andre Statam 4. FG: 16. FT: 14-23. F: 18. (3-pointers: Evans 3. Fouled out: none.)

JV--NMCC won 52-47.

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