North County 51, Festus 42
PARK HILLS – Pesky team defense and creative scoring by Karter Kekec have brought fifth-seeded North County to the semifinal round of the Central Christmas Tournament.
The fifth-seeded Raiders converted 21-of-32 free throws, and delivered a closing 12-4 run over the final 2 ½ minutes on Saturday to stave off Festus 51-42.
Kekec netted 32 points – a tournament high so far in the boys bracket – and made three steals during an effort defined by two crucial hustling plays down the stretch.
The first sequence arrived as the Tigers were seeking the lead after sophomore guard Cole Rickermann drilled a tying 3-pointer at 33-33.
Kekec blocked a perimeter shot, then dived on the floor to knock the ball away again. He quickly popped to his feet, controlled the dribble and streaked end to end for a go-ahead layup with 4:09 left.
Clayton Crow provided his second straight basket from the paint after Festus had closed to within 39-38, and the Tigers appeared to catch a break when Kekec had an empty trip to the line.
He used a subtle and undetected grab of a jersey to arrive first to the second miss, however, and cashed in both subsequent chances following another Festus foul.
Freshman Jobe Smith extended the margin to three possession from the stripe after the Tigers blew an uncontested layup off broken pressure.
North County (5-3) forced 16 turnovers while committing only nine, and earned a chance to challenge top-seeded and unbeaten South Iron on Monday night.
Nolan Reed added eight points for the Raiders, who carried a 17-15 lead following a first half marked by frenetic energy yet shaky execution.
Festus (3-6) surged ahead 24-21 when missed free throws preceded consecutive putbacks from forward DaMarion Anderson, who starred in a first-round upset over No. 4 seed Farmington on Thursday.
Kekec countered with a pull-up jumper, and put North County ahead with a layup off an inbounds play.
Rickermann finished with 17 points while Anderson totaled nine points and nine rebounds for the Tigers.
South Iron (9-0) steamrolled Jefferson 90-49 in the first quarterfinal, getting 28 points each from junior forward Brock Wakefield and sophomore guard Drenin Dinkins.
Central 81, Steelville 50
PARK HILLS – Once the Central boys discovered gaping creases in the Steelville defense, they attacked the rim with stellar results on Saturday evening.
Senior guard Brent Wagner notched 25 points plus six rebounds, and the second-seeded Rebels shot an unrelenting 66 percent from the field to triumph 81-50.
Mason Williams added 17 points with six rebounds, and the Central Christmas Tournament host squad advanced to meet Hillsboro in the semifinal round on Monday night.
The Cardinals, one of two new additions to the 16-team field, surged ahead 11-3 on deep jumpers from Chase Cottrell, Tanner Diaz and Josh Earney.
But the defensive effort was lacking, and yielded layups as interior help often failed to rotate as the Central guards slashed past their perimeter defenders.
Williams capped the first quarter with a driving layup, and began the second with another while drawing contact to hand the Rebels their first lead, 14-13.
Wagner collected four baskets within a five-minute stretch, including a 3-pointer to punctuate the half. He crashed the glass for an earlier putback, and turned a midcourt steal into a layup at 27-19.
Central (6-2) was only heating up while holding a 37-22 halftime edge. Wagner added to his repertoire with a pair of spinning shots from the post before nailing a more customary triple.
Williams spotted Breven McMullen with a long outlet pass that created a corner 3-pointer, then drained his own 21-footer as the third quarter expired to make it 61-30.
McMullen provided 14 points, and Drew Hamski added nine on three connections from beyond the arc. The Rebels were also bolstered by a sizable rebounding edge.
Freshman Kendall Horton supplied eight points and quality minutes off the bench. His 3-pointer and ensuing steal and off-balanced layup widened a 70-46 spread.
Diaz scored 21 points and Cottrell had 18 for Steelville (8-2), which was unofficially favored 11-10 in a manageable turnover margin for both sides.
Hillsboro 50, Arcadia Valley 39
PARK HILLS – Hillsboro reached the Central Christmas Tournament semifinal round by thwarting the bid of Arcadia Valley to spring a second bracket upset in as many nights.
Evan Worley compiled 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks as a daunting post presence, and the third-seeded Hawks prevailed 50-39 on Saturday.
Hillsboro (8-2) gained late separation by sinking 9-of-10 free throws in the fourth quarter, and will face Central on Monday night for a spot in the title game.
Mark Moore contributed 14 points to the outcome, and attacked along the right side for a layup to create a 35-26 advantage late in the third quarter.
Junior Carter Brogan paced Arcadia Valley (2-5) for the second straight game since his return from injury, notching 14 of his 19 points in the first half.
His second of five 3-pointers snapped an 11-11 tie, and the 11th-seeded Tigers showed composure to hang with the Hawks after bouncing No. 6 seed Ste. Genevieve on Friday.
AV claimed its final lead at 22-20 when Daniel Horn saved an offensive rebound that enabled Brogan to connect from an open right corner.
Ethan Worley answered with a driving layup through the lane, and increased a 25-22 margin on a spin across the paint for the first basket out of intermission.
Horn tallied 10 points with nine rebounds, and had all three of the Tigers’ field goals in the third stanza. But he was also denied numerous times by 6-foot-7 defender Evan Worley.
Moore drained back-to-back threes for a nine-point spread with Worley, who finished an excellent entry pass from Garrett Pinkley to restore a 43-36 Hillsboro lead with less than three minutes to play.
De Soto 54, Potosi 46
PARK HILLS – Nick Krodinger equaled game-high honors with 19 points, and De Soto eliminated Potosi 54-46 from the boys consolation bracket of the Central Christmas Tournament on Saturday.
Jordan Martens added 15 points and Aidan Blair had eight for De Soto (3-8), which trailed 39-38 before outscoring the Trojans 16-7 in the fourth quarter.
Sophomore Malachi Peppers tallied 10 of his 19 points in the first quarter for Potosi (1-8). Bryce Reed finished with 11 points while Kaleb Coffman and Ryker Walton added six each.
Ste. Genevieve 69, Perryville 33
PARK HILLS – Ste. Genevieve returned to the court 14 hours after being upset in the first round of the Central Christmas Tournament, and routed struggling Perryville 69-33 on Saturday.
Logan Trollinger scored 14 points to pace four Dragons in double figures. Christian Boyer and Rudy Flieg added 11 points each, while Landon Rose netted 10 and Ricky Hunter pitched in eight more.
Ste. Genevieve (4-4) soared to leads of 18-6 through one quarter and 39-15 at halftime, and will face De Soto on Monday.
Evan Daugherty totaled 11 points to highlight Perryville (3-7), which made just 4-of-14 free throws and averaged 30.5 points in back-to-back tourney losses.