NMCC rally spoils N.D. upset

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Minutes away from an upset of grand proportions, Notre Dame instead discovered the virtues of state champions and an all-state player.

In a hostile environment, New Madrid County Central, the two-time defending Class 3A state champion, rose to the occasion. Lifted by the late heroics of all-state senior Dereke Tipler, NMCC escaped Notre Dame High School with a 63-59 victory Tuesday.

Tipler finished with just 14 points, but strapped the Eagles on his back in the final two minutes of the game when he scored 10 of his points.

"He took over," said Notre Dame point guard Scott Wittenborn, who saw his game-high 21 points overshadowed down the stretch. "He's all-state, a natural leader and did what he needed to do."

Notre Dame (11-5) executed a patient Princeton-like offense for most of the game, leading the Eagles (12-1) by as many as 15 points in the first half. The Bulldogs shot 67 percent in the first half primarily due to repeated layins with passes to cutters in the lane.

And with Tyler Cuba shadowing NMCC's all-state star for most the game, Notre Dame kept Tipler under wraps. He had four free throws in the first half, which ended with Notre Dame leading just 33-30.

"I was frustrated, but I wasn't worried about the points," Tipler said. "I was worried about the whole game."

NMCC coach Joby Holland said two state championships helped his team down the stretch.

"They have a winning mentality and a competitive nature and that really showed toward the end," Holland said. "Dereke is a very special player and he didn't have the game tonight that he normally has, and that's a tribute to Notre Dame, but at the right time he was able to do the right things."

Late-game heroics

With his team trailing 54-47 with 1:47 left, Tipler had a hand in 13 of the Eagles' final 16 points.

He countered three consecutive Notre Dame scoring possessions with six points to draw the Eagles to 57-53 with 1:14 remaining. Terrance Smith then cut the lead to 57-56 on a 3-point basket at the minute mark.

Wittenborn provided the Bulldogs' final points by hitting a pair of free throws for a 59-56 advantage with 53 seconds left. The ball again went to Tipler, who was fouled and hit the front end of a one-and-one. Tipler missed his second attempt, but rebounded the miss and passed to the top of the key to teammate Tyler Wagner, who buried a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left, putting NMCC ahead for good, 60-59.

Cuba added 12 points for Notre Dame. Brian Murph and Smith each scored 13 points for NMCC.

"Not many teams can say they came down to the wire with best team in 3A, and I believe we made a statement ," Cuba said. "We'll be back."

jbreer@semissourian.com

(573) 335-6611, extension 124

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