PARK HILLS – The eighth-seeded South Iron Panthers used an aggressive, attacking offensive and a physical defense to reach the finals of the 49th Annual Bob Sechrest, Jr. Central Christmas Tournament, but eventually ran out of steam against a team that exhibited the same qualities.
The Farmington Knights regrouped from a sluggish first half to outscore the Panthers 38-19 over the remainder of Friday’s title contest on their way to a 61-39 victory.
Farmington (9-3) won the tournament for the third time in school history, and first since 1998.
Made field goals were scarce for both teams throughout the first half, but the intensity and hustle certainly were not. South Iron (9-3) went nearly five minutes without a basket before Lance Kaempfe evened the score at 5-5 with an backdoor layup. The Panthers moved ahead on a three-point play by Boyd Reed, and ended the first quarter on top 8-7.
South Iron extended its lead to five when a nice back-screen led to a James Twomey layup, but the Knights responded with a layup by Matt Usherwood and a three-pointer by Josh Taylor to tie the score at 12-12.
David King scored with a driving reverse layup, and Nick Brewer emerged from a scramble inside for a putback to highlight a six-point run which gave the Knights a five-point lead.
Mike Mullery scored with an athletic reverse layup of his own to trim the Farmington advantage to 23-20 at halftime. The Panthers missed all six of their three-point attempts in the first half as the Knights were a constant defensive presence at the perimeter.
A pair of key triples by Schuyler Semar helped the Knights start the third quarter with a 10-1 scoring run. South Iron closed to within 34-27 on a three-pointer by Reed, but after Mullery picked up his fourth foul, Usherwood took control inside for the Knights.
Usherwood drilled back-to-back mid-range jumpers, then turned a midcourt steal into a layup, pushing the margin into double figures. Farmington led 42-29 after three quarters, and continued to pull away as a basket by Dwayne Glaspy capped a 6-0 run to start the fourth.
A putback by DeAndre Prater brought the Panthers to within 49-36 with 3:45 to play, but Usherwood immediately countered at the other end. King added an defensive exclamation point to the Farmington victory with an emphatic block of a three-point shot, then knocked down two free throws after battling for a loose ball.
Farmington doubled South Iron in free throw attempts, hitting 14-20 while the Panthers made 8-10. The Knights also dominated the boards with a 31-16 edge in rebounds.
“We’re real happy right now,” said Farmington coach Tim Banger. “We’re growing deeper as a team. The kids have realized that they’ve done something special.”
“No team came in here expecting to be an overwhelming powerhouse, but we played well enough to win it, especially tonight.
Usherwood posted a double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds to lead all players in both categories. Reed topped the scoring column for South Iron with 13 points.
The boys’ third-place game was much closer on Friday, but West County dominated the third quarter of a low-scoring battle and held on late for a 45-41 triumph over Potosi, giving the Bulldogs their second win over the Trojans this season.
Potosi (8-4) finished with a decisive 18-2 advantage in bench scoring, but was unable to match the production of the Bulldogs’ starting five, led by John Barnett with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
A three-point play by Brandon Casey and a pair of triples from Lee Jackson helped propel the Trojans to an early five-point lead in the first quarter. Barnett answered with a tough baseline jumper for the Bulldogs, who trailed 13-9 at the conclusion of the first quarter.
Chris Mosier connected on a three on the opening possession of the second half to bring the Bulldogs to within one, but inside baskets by Jeremy Brown and Brandon Casey restored a five-point margin.
Sam Luebbers muscled his way inside for a three-point play late in the first half for the Bulldogs as Potosi went scoreless for more than four minutes. However, a steal and layup by Casey kept the Trojans ahead 19-16 at intermission.
Mosier dialed long distance again to even the score as the third quarter began, and the Bulldogs took charge from there, outscoring the Trojans 19-4 during the stanza. Jake Blair followed a three-point play with a big steal and two free throws to cap the rally, as West County carried a 35-23 lead into the fourth.
The Trojans scored the first five points of the final stanza to claw their back to within seven. Potosi made three quick steals to set up a successful transition attack. After a Kevin Brown steal led to a Brett Walton layup, Casey turned an inbound pass into a three-point play, cutting the difference to 37-35 with 1:26 left.
Potosi missed a pair of three-point attempts on their next two trips, allowing Barnett to hit six straight clutch free throws. Bryce Malloy connected from long range with 1.6 seconds remaining to make it 43-41, but Travis Graham sealed the outcome with two more free throws.
“I’m excited to go 3-1 and finish third in a tournament with so many good teams,” said Bulldogs coach Chad Mills. “We’re jumping up and down at West County.”
The Bulldogs were defeated in the first round of their last three Central Christmas Tournament runs.
Brandon Casey scored 12 points off the bench to lead Potosi.
Farmington 61, South Iron 39
Farmington – M Usherwood 25, S Semar 8, J Taylor 5, N Brewer 5, D Glaspy 5, D King 4, E Schweiss 3, P Grix 2, H Peterson 2, J Baechle 2.
3-pointers – S Semar 2, J Taylor 1.
South Iron – B Reed 13, M Mullery 8, L Kaempfe 8, J Savage 5, J Twomey 3, D Prater 2.
3-pointers – B Reed 1, J Savage 1, L Kaempfe 1.
West County 45, Potosi 41
West County – J Barnett 16, S Luebbers 11, C Mosier 9, J Blair 7, T Graham 2.
3-pointers – C Mosier 3.
Potosi – B Casey 12, L Jackson 8, B Walton 6, J Brown 4, J Newcomer 4, B Malloy 3, J Politte 2, K Brown 2.
3-pointers – L Jackson 2, B Malloy 1, B Walton 1.