Delta News-Citizen

Risco boys drop semifinal to Neelyville at BIT

Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Risco’s EJ Myers (left) and teammate Morgan Ludwig scramble for a loose ball against Neelyville Nov. 28 at the Bernie Invitational Tournament at Bernie High School.
Photo by Brent Shipman, staff

BERNIE, Mo – Foul trouble and poor shooting spelled doom for the second-seeded Risco Tigers Nov. 28 during a Bernie Invitational Tournament semifinal against No. 3 Neelyville.

A late surge brought Risco back from a double-digit deficit to within a point in the final minutes, but ultimately Neelyville would pull off the mild upset, 65-59.

“We didn’t shoot the ball very well,” Risco head coach Brandon Blankenship said. “We’re a team that doesn’t have a ton of inside presence so we have to be able to knock down shots. We shot a lot of outside shots and didn’t shoot a very good percentage. You have to be able to play through that, play defense and rebound. Neelyville pretty much owned the boards on us.”

Risco (1-2) played from behind the better part of the night and it was a critical stretch late in the third quarter that proved to be a backbreaker.

After fighting back within a possession, 37-35, Risco watched Neelyville (3-0) score 14 unanswered points in the final 3:28 of the quarter to not only take their first double-digit lead, but break away by a game-high 16 points, 51-35, in the closing seconds of the frame.

A basket from Risco’s Nathan Burnett broke up the streak, though Risco still trailed by 13 points, 51-38, entering the fourth quarter.

“When you play a team like Risco 13 points don’t really seem like a lot,” Neelyville head coach Patrick Morton said. “But that was big for us. Especially with Wyatt Moon going down and Tyler Harlow fouling out at the end. That 13 point cushion, we needed every bit of it to hold them off.”

A pair of free throws to start the fourth again put Neelyville up by 15, but soon after Risco put together their best stretch of the game.

A 10-2 Risco run cut their deficit by more than half before Treston Meese, who had only three points entering the fourth, reeled off eight-straight including back-to-back 3-pointers.

Meese’s final three brought Risco back to within a point of Neelyville, 57-56, with 2:21 to play and forced a timeout.

“That fourth quarter was a grind,” Morton said. “We had two starters go out and we just lost composure. At that point we had one senior and a junior out there. The rest were sophomores. They haven’t been in situations like that on the varsity level yet.”

As quickly as Risco got hot, however, they cooled back down.

Trailing by three points with under two minutes remaining, Risco missed three-straight 3-point attempts on the same possession. Neelyville finally recovered the ball and made it a two possession game, 60-56, on free throws with Risco missing another three attempts as the clock ticked down to 23 seconds left to play.

A steal by Neelyville’s Curtis Fowler was followed by a flagrant foul from Risco. Neelyville converted on 3 of 4 free throws with 11 seconds left to effectively close out the game.

“Sometimes it’s hard to play with the lead,” Morton said. “Epecially when you have a team as talented and capable as Risco. I think we lost our composure a bit, but our assistant coaches did a good job of calming everybody down.”

Risco’s foul trouble came back to haunt them at the worst time.

In the middle of their run in the fourth quarter Morgan Ludwig picked up his fifth foul.

Ludwig was coming off scoring six of his team’s last eight points when he fouled out, closing his team within seven points with 4:06 to play.

Jason Riddell and Meese went on to pick up their fifth as well in the final minute to leave Risco down three players by the final buzzer.

“At that point (Ludwig goes out) we were really stressing to our guys that we needed to attack the basket,” Blankenship said. “There zone is spread out, we have to attack. He finally got some things going in there. He’s our senior and one of our leaders. That hurt when he went out.”

Free throws also hurt Risco, going 4 of 11 (36 percent) on the game and 2 for 7 in the fourth quarter.

Nathan Burnett led Risco with 17 points on the night, including three of his team’s nine 3-pointers. Ludwig and Garrett Young scored 12 points each and Meese was the fourth Tiger in double digits with 11 points.

“We had gotten in to some foul trouble,” Blankenship said. “Too many times we let our offense dictate our defense intensity. If we’re not hitting shots we’re not playing as hard on the defensive end. Your defense has to be consistent every time out.”

Fowler easily led Neelyville with 26 points, hitting 14 of 16 free throw attempts, all coming in the second half.

Marquise West and Elijah Crossen scored 13 points each. As a team Neelyville 26 of 31 (84 percent) from the charity stripe.

“The first two games of the year it didn’t really feel like we performed to our potential defensively,” Morton said. “Tonight we did a decent job and we rebounded extremely well and that was the difference.

“There at the end free throws was the story of the game. If we don’t make those free throws we probably don’t win.”

In other tournament action top-seeded Bernie took down fourth-seeded Puxico 83-70 in the other semifinal contest thanks in part to 33 points from Nate Dillinger and 17 points from Hunter Slavings.

Risco also dropped its third-place game to Puxico 67-58 Thursday.

No. 3 Neelyville 65, No. 2 Risco 59

Neelyville 13 17 21 14 - 65

Risco 10 15 13 21 - 59

NEELYVILLE (65) – Austin Ennis 2, Elijah Crossen 13, Wyatt Moon 8, Taylor Harlow 3, Marquise West 13, Curtis Fowler 26. FG 19, FT 26-31, F 13. (3-pointers: Harlow 1. Fouled out: Tyler Lowe.)

RISCO (59) – EJ Myers 3, Nathan Burnett 17, Treston Meese 11, Morgan Ludwig 12, Garrett Young 12, James Riddell 4. FG 23, FT 4-11, F 24. (3-pointers: Myers 1, Burnett 3, Meese 3, Young 2. Fouled out: Meese, Riddell, Ludwig.)

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