Carrier Mills gets GEC Tourney revenge
Wildcats shootout "light's out", drill NCOE for road victory, improve to 13-12

NORRIS CITY - For every head coach in every sport at any level of competition, the goal is to have his or her team playing at its peak level heading into the postseason.

Mission accomplished for head coach Keil Peebles and his Carrier Mills Wildcats.

After a bad start to the season where they lost some close games and not so close decisions, the Wildcats have been playing well in the last few weeks.

Carrier Mills was once 4-10 on the season but are now above .500 at 13-12 after demolishing Norris City-Omaha-Enfield 89-71 on Tuesday night.

With the win, the 'Cats finished the Greater Egyptian Conference schedule at 4-3 and head into the postseason winning 9-of-11 games.

Against the “run and gun” style of their hosts on Tuesday night, Carrier Mills took full advantage of the Fighting Cardinals' “gambling” defensive approach.

“Our kids are getting better at game situations. I thought we controlled the game once we got ahead and took advantage of their aggressiveness,” said Coach Peebles. “We are a pretty good shooting team and we got a lot of high percentage shots tonight.”

Coach Peebles' seniors have stepped forward to play their best basketball of the campaign at the right time, with help from some key underclassmen.

Six-foot-three guard Brody Walker has been the catalyst for club this season and he put it all together last night with 31-points, hitting 10-field goal attempts and 10-of-11 from the foul line.

Justice Hill, a 6-foot-3 senior, produced a “triple-double” with 12-points, 16-rebounds and 11-assists.”

Freshman Will Gibbs, a 5-foot-10 guard, tossed in 16-points for the Wildcats while senior Dylan Schwartz added 11.

Coach Peebles got eight-points each from senior Justin Austin and junior Billy Lewis in the victory, an outcome that wasn't in any serious doubt after a huge offensive push in the third quarter that gave the Wildcats a commanding 24-point advantage.

Three weeks ago in the annual GEC tournament, NCOE upset the Wildcats in the first round, 82-77, after jumping out to a 20-point lead in the first half.

There would be no upset on this night for Coach Evan Wyllie and his team, as the Fighting Cardinals saw their overall mark slip to 6-17 on the season with the defeat, 3-4 in the GEC.

Two key stats jumped off the page from this game that helped tilt the game into the Wildcats favor.

The Wildcats shot 67.3 percent from the field Tuesday night (31-of-46) and hit all four of their 3-point attempts.

The offense that Norris City-Omaha-Enfield runs calls for a lot of 3-point shot attempts.

Unfortunately for Coach Wyllie's club, they weren't very efficient on Tuesday night in putting these shots into the basket.

NCOE ended up 6-of-29 from the arc (20.6 percent) and 28-of-61 overall.

When they were actually getting to the basket, they hit a very good percentage from inside (22-of-32, 68.7 percent).

But that wasn't enough to stem the Carrier Mills offensive tide.

“We didn't make our 3's tonight, we hit just 6-of-29 and in the first quarter we turned the ball over too many times,” said Coach Wyllie. “We dug ourselves that hole and we couldn't get much closer than 10 for most of the game. We didn't quite have enough tonight. And we didn't get many offensive rebounds when we needed them. We were 'one and done' too many times tonight.”

NCOE was led by 30-points from senior Cooper Wells and 20-points from senior guard Matt Long.

Although both played well, neither was able to carry enough of the offensive load to get the team the win.

NCOE made its best showing in the early going, holding a 12-7 lead with Wells scoring nine of his points in the opening quarter.

His converted a three-point play on a drive in the lane gave his club that initial five-point lead with 4:30 remaining in the frame.

Defensively, the Cardinals gave up too many easy looks to the Wildcats and Carrier Mills benefited as they went on their first offensive binge of the game to take the lead back for good.

“Our ball pressure tonight wasn't very good and our rotations weren't good enough. We should have done a better job denying. We forced quite a few turnovers but it wasn't good enough to make them take tougher shots,” said Coach Wyllie. “It seemed like they (Carrier Mills) made everything tonight. They made all four 3-pointers that they attempted and they made a lot of easy shots.”

In the next three minutes of action, Carrier Mills outscored the hosts 19-1.

Facing full-court pressure from NCOE, the Wildcats turned the rest of the quarter into a lay up drill, as Walker, Gibbs, Schwartz and junior forward Andrew Lollis all produced points.

Schwartz converted a three-point play to push the lead to 21-12 and force Coach Wyllie to burn a timeout.

This stoppage did little to stop the Carrier Mills offensive as they closed the quarter with a pair of 3-point bombs by junior guard Billy Lewis, with his second one with :04 left giving the Wildcats a 29-16 lead after an entertaining first quarter.

NCOE managed one more offensive move from their defense before halftime, forcing five Carrier Mills turnovers in the second quarter to get to within six-points.

Wells and Long both scored and senior Trenton Verble netted a 3-pointer for the Cardinals as they went on a 15-4 move.

Back-to-back baskets by Wells cut the lead to just 39-33 with 2:56 left before the half.

A three-point play from Schwartz and a back door cut to the basket by Gibbs sent the teams to the break at 44-34 CM.

Carrier Mills put the game on ice in the third quarter.

Leading by just eight after giving up a quick score to begin the second half by NCOE's Ben Taylor, the Wildcats went off on a 14-2 sprint.

Walker netted six of the points and assisted on two other baskets.

Gibbs added a 3-pointer and Schwartz converted on yet another three-point play with a drive to the basket while being fouled.

When Walker scored on an assist by Schwartz on another lay in, the Wildcats were up 58-38 with 4:21 remaining.

The lead ballooned to 24-points near the end of the stanza with Walker scoring two more times in close to the basket and Gibbs scoring again in the lane for a 66-42 lead.

The Cardinals scored the next nine-points with Wells scoring six of them on a 3-pointer and a three-point play.

This made it 66-51 heading to the final quarter.

NCOE would get no closer the remainder of the game as Carrier Mills was 6-of-9 from the floor in the final eight minutes and 10-of-11 from the foul line.

The Wildcats finished 23-of-26 from the charity stripe and held a 27-22 rebounding edge, which is very misleading.

Coach Peebles team didn't miss enough shots for the Wildcats to grab many offensive rebounds (four) in the game.

The game featured 32-turnovers (17 from CM) in a fast-paced contest.

But NCOE had 10 of their turnovers in the opening quarter as they dug themselves into a double-digit deficit.

“Turnovers weren't too bad considering the kind of game that this was because they (NCOE) get after you,” said Coach Peebles. “I thought when we stretched the floor a little bit and made them play some defense. It is hard to play the way they want to play when you have to defend and then try to shoot the ball well.”

Both of the teams will finish up their regular season schedules with home games on Friday against GEC teams in non-conference action.

NCOE will host Thompsonville and Carrier Mills will welcome Galatia.

In the Greater Egyptian Conference, only one of the games played against each other (the first contest) counts towards the league standings so the Friday night games will be the second time the teams have played each other.

As for the postseason Carrier Mills opens up with a game against Pope County at the 1A Hardin County Regional next Monday with the winner to take on fourth-seed Gallatin County Wednesday.

“I'm very please with my guys. We are happy where we are at and we are looking forward to regional time. Hopefully we can make some noise,” said Coach Peebles. “We are playing some pretty good basketball right now.”

NCOE will travel to the 1A Wayne City Regional to play Webber Township on Monday night with the winner to get top-seed Wayne City Tuesday night.

“Credit them (Carrier Mills) they are a lot better than their record and they just beat Gallatin County so they are playing pretty well going into tournament time,” said Coach Wyllie. “We have had some tough losses lately but it is on to the next one.”

Carrier Mills
Norris City-Omaha-Enfield
Carrier Mills (89) – Hill 3 0 6-7 12, Walker 11 0 10-11 31, Gibbs 4 2 2-3 16, Austin 3 0 2-2 8, Schwartz 4 0 3-3 11, Lewis 1 2 0-0 8, Lollis 1 0 0-0 2, Barners 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-27, 3FG-4, FT-23-26, PF-15.

Norris City-Omaha-Enfield (71) – Healy 2 0 0-1 4, Long 5 3 1-2 20, Skaggs 0 0 0-0 0, Taylor 2 0 2-2 6, Simmons 0 0 0-0 0, O'Neal 2 0 0-0 4, Wells 11 1 6-7 30, Verble 0 2 0-0 6, Baumgert 0 0 1-3 1.
2FG-22, 3FG-6, FT-10-15, PF-20.

Fouled Out
– None.
Technical Fouls
– None.