NCOE nabs first ever GEC tournament title
Fighting Cardinals use big third quarter ending in 47-33 win over Crab Orchard
Pope County, Hardin County pick up final day hardware
HARRISBURG – For the Norris City-Omaha-Enfield Fighting Cardinals, it was a long wait to hoist the championship trophy of the Greater Egyptian Conference Tournament.

Having moved to the GEC after a long stay in the now defunct Mid-South Conference, this program hadn't been able to secure this title in its previous 12 tries of the event.

On Saturday night Coach Jim Tucker got to see his team celebrate the title game triumph after taking care of rival Crab Orchard, 47-33 in a defensive slug fest.

These Cardinals put together the one major offensive burst; a game-changing run to separate themselves from the Trojans as they improved to 16-6 on the season.

Five-foot-eleven junior guard CJ Richardson led NCOE with 15 points while his teammates balanced out the win.

Six-foot-five junior Joe Melton added nine points and six rebounds while freshman guard Preston Long and junior guard Ty Money added eight points apiece.

Senior forward Trey Simmons added to the scoring with seven points.

“They (Crab Orchard) run a very aggressive 'man-to-man' defense and I told the boys that if we can be patient we can get the looks (at the basket) that we need,” said Coach Tucker. “I think it (patience) set things up for our 3-point shooters.”

So if your team was wanting to put a scoring run together to win a title, what would be the quickest way to score 12 points?

The answer on this night for NCOE was four unanswered 3-pointers in a two minute span.

That was the run that not only turned into a 14-0 move but it also broke the game's final tie score.

With the game even at 23-23 with just under three minutes remaining in the third quarter, Richardson nailed down the first 3-pointer in the run from the top of the arc.

Long followed with another bomb from nearly the same spot on the floor.

Richardson stayed hot as he added yet another trey, this time from the left wing.

After a Crab Orchard turnover gave the ball back to NCOE, the Cards worked the ball nearly a minute to get a final shot.

Or in this case, shots.

With the clock winding down, Melton found himself open and launched a 20-footer that bounced off of the rim.

Long got the rebound and his pass to Richardson found his teammate open from the arc on the right wing.

The junior guard nailed down his third long distance shot of the scoring spree, which beat the horn for a 35-23 lead heading into the final quarter.

A bucket by Melton to open the fourth completed the championship winning run.

The Trojans would get no closer than 10 points the rest of the way as Coach Jon Brown's club fell to 19-5 on the season, with two of the losses coming to these Cardinals.

“We have kind of been struggling shooting the 3's lately but when we came down to this tournament every single one of them (players) started lighting it up,” said Coach Tucker. “It really helps our inside game, it opens it up. I can't say enough great things about the way we shot the ball this week.”

Six-foot-one senior guard Hunter Throgmorton and 5-foot-10 senior guard Tony Lakotich led Crab Orchard with 12 points each while Kegan Peek was a “beast” on the glass, scoring nine points and ending up with 12 rebounds, nine of which were snagged in the first half as the Trojans were in the title hunt.

Unfortunately, those were the only players to score in the contest for the Trojans.

NCOE could have put distance between themselves and Crab Orchard in the first half but they were “brick layers” from the foul line.

The first nine times the Cardinals toed the line they came up empty (eight missed shots, one lane violation) in opportunities to take control.

Three of the missed FT's came in the first quarter.

Crab Orchard, with a 3-pointer from Throgmorton and two rebound buckets and a free throw by Peek, led 8-6 at the end of the first.

Peek grabbed five of his rebounds in the opening quarter, which was the good news.

The bad part was Crab was just 3-of-12 from the floor in the frame.

NCOE and Crab Orchard combined for five 3-pointers in the second quarter with the Cardinals ending up on top at the halftime break.

Throgmorton and Lakotich each hit from the arc while Long, Melton and Richardson did the same.

With the Trojans up 16-14, the Cardinals closed out the half with a Richardson bomb from the right corner and a drive to the basket by Money while being fouled by Crab Orchard sophomore Ian Dawes.

Although Money missed the foul shot, NCOE led 19-16 at the half.

Peek followed up a missed fast break lay up by Dawes to tie the game up at 23-23 before the Cardinals put together the run to claim the championship.

The Fighting Cardinals finally put together some made free throws (6-of-10) in the fourth quarter to secure the win.

When you tally all of the numbers, it shows a overall edge to the champs.

NCOE ended up 17-of-35 overall and a very good 7-of-13 from the arc.

The Cardinals finally kept Crab Orchard off of the glass in the second half as they held a 30-23 edge overall.

Coach Brown's club was 13-of-43 overall, 6-of-21 from the 3-point line.

Both teams, despite being involved in a defensive struggle, took care of the ball.

Each ended up with just five turnovers.

“CJ Richardson, I can't say enough good things about him. He and his teammates were ready for tonight's game,” said Coach Tucker. “We are very, very proud of all of these young men and very pleased. I think we're getting better as the season wears on. They are learning more each day about the game of basketball. It is a work in progress.”

Crab Orchard (19-5)
Norris City-Omaha-Enfield (16-6)

Crab Orchard (33) – Throgmorton 3 2 0-0 12, I. Dawes 0 0 0-0 0, Lakotich 0 4 0-0 12, Peek 4 0 1-2 9, Powell 0 0 0-0 0, Rooker 0 0 0-0 0. 2FG-7, 3FG-6, FT-1-2, PF-17.
Norris City-Omaha-Enfield (47) – Long 0 2 2-3 8, Brown 0 0 0-1 0, Money 4 0 0-0 8, Richardson 1 4 1-1 15, Simmons 2 0 3-9 7, Melton 3 1 0-3 9. 2FG-10, 3FG-7, FT-6-18, PF-5.
Fouled Out – Peek - Crab Orchard.
Technical Fouls – None.

The Pirates used a 20-2 run in the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth to claim the third place honors in beating the Hawks.

Coach Jim Simmons' Bucs upped the record to 14-8 overall with the victory behind three Pirates in double-figures in scoring.

Jackson Eddington, a 5-foot-10 senior leader, paced the Pope County with 14 points, including a couple of big three pointers in the first half.

Senior forward Jordan Ellis added 12 points and some key defensive plays during the big third quarter push.

Logan Croley, a sophomore guard, added 11 important points in the third place conquest.

Six-foot-two junior Jayden Smith also helped out with six points.

Gallatin County and head coach Craig Utterback got 16 points from senior Dawson Hish and 12 from junior Case Rister in the loss as the Hawks are now 5-15 on the season.

The Hawks found themselves ahead early 8-2 after scores from Hish and senior Brock Seely along with two buckets from Rister.

Eddington got Pope County on the board with a rebound of his own missed shot and a conventional three-point play by senior Logan Wilson as it was 8-5 at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter feature a pair of tie scores as the Pirates rallied from six points down to end the half up by four.

Eddington hit his two 3-point bombs from the right wing on each shot while Croley and Deakin Lindgren each popped home shots from the arc.

Lindgren got his opening when Eddington fed him with a nice setup pass in the left corner as the second quarter came to an end at 23-19 Pope County.

After the Hawks recaptured the advantage with a 3-pointer by Hish and two baskets by Rister, the Pirates “abandoned ship” as they left Gallatin County behind.

The run was triggered by by Ellis and Eddington, who made big defensive plays with steals.

Both turned into points as they fed each other on on transition scores.

Ellis added a pair of free throws in between the baskets for a 31-26 Pope County lead.

That, unfortunately for Gallatin County, was just the beginning of this scoring bombardment.

Croley drilled home a 3-pointer and then the sophomore converted a three-point play as he was fouled on a rebound attempt.

His made free throw made it 37-26.

Hish broke up the streak before the end of the quarter with two free throws as Gallatin County trailed by nine heading to the fourth.

Smith scored his first points of the night on yet another three-point play in the lane on a rebound bucket and free throw.

Five-foot-eleven junior guard Braxton Mitchell hit one shot in the game, but it was a “biggie.”

Mitchell found himself wide open about 25 feet from the basket on the right wing, well behind both the high school and collegiate 3-point lines.

He calmly stroked home a shot to expand the advantage.

Another score by Ellis on a tip in off a missed Pope County shot ended the run and the drama with Coach Simmons' Pirates now up 45-28 with 4:51 remaining.

The Hawks would get no closer than 15 points the rest of the way.

Third Plaec
Gallatin County (5-15)
Pope County (14-8)

Gallatin County (34) – Hish 5 1 3-3 16, Seely 1 1 0-0 5, Henson 0 0 0-0 0, Rister 6 0 0-0 12, Scherrer 0 0 1-4 1, Crane 0 0 0-0 0, Brugger 0 0 0-0 0, Knott 0 0 0-0 0, Henson 0 0 0-0 0, Duvall 0 0 0-0 0, Rushing 0 0 0-0 0, Colbert 0 0 0-0 0, York 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-12, 3FG-2, FT-4-7, PF-19.

Pope County (52) – Eddington 3 2 2-5 14, Mitchell 0 1 0-0 3, Ellis 4 0 4-6 12, Wilson 1 0 1-1 3, Horton 0 0 0-0 0, Lindgren 0 1 0-0 3, Smith 2 0 2-3 6, Croley 1 2 3-5 11, Lauster 0 0 0-0 0, Lewis 0 0 0-0 0, Robards 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-11, 3FG-6, FT-12-20, PF-12.

Fouled Out – Seely, Henson - Gallatin County.
Technical Fouls – None.

The Cougars, who were the tournaments' number three seed and were upset victims in the first round against Gallatin County, salvaged the week with a pair of consolation bracket wins to take home that hardware.

Head coach Rodney Lane saw his club improve to 9-14 overall with the triumph as eight different Cougars scored in the conquest over the Wildcats.

Six-foot junior Calen Banks led all scorers with 25 points, including 7-of-7 from the foul line.

Jake Vaughn, a 5-foot-11 sophomore guard, added 13 points while senior Lanceton Fields added 11.

Banks scored 11 of his points in the opening quarter as Hardin County took command early as they lead 34-23 at halftime.

Hardin County outscored the Wildcats in every quarter as they dropped Carrier Mills-Stonefort to 7-15 overall.

Coach Keil Peebles saw his club end up 1-2 in the event with a win over Galatia and losses to Hardin and Pope County.

The Wildcats were led by 5-foot-9 sophomore Colton Mitchell and 6-foot-1 sophomore Zavier Rollins with 14 and 10 points respectively.

Five-foot-nine senior Colton Betz added nine points with a field goal and 7-of-9 free throws.

Hardin County (9-14)
Carrier Mills (7-15)

Hardin County (71) – Jo. Johnson 2 0 1-2 5, Smith 2 1 0-0 7, J. Vaughn 5 0 3-6 13, Je. Johnson 1 0 0-0 2, Banks 6 2 7-7 25, Fields 3 1 2-3 11, B. Vaughn 1 0 2-2 4, Austin 0 0 0-0 0, Ditterline 1 0 2-2 4, Gerdes 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-21, 3FG-4, FT-17-22, PF-17.

Carrier Mill-Stonefort (53) – Mitchell 4 2 0-0 14, Hambleton 4 0 0-0 8, Choat 1 1 0-0 5, Rollins 5 0 0-1 1-, Gilliam 0 0 1-2 1, C. Betz 1 0 7-9 9, Ward Reed 2 0 0-1 4.
2FG-18, 3FG-3, FT-8-13, PF-19.

Fouled Out – None.
Technical Fouls – Reed, Rollins - Carrier Mills-Stonefort.