NCOE shocks host Eagles
Sophomore Melton hits game winning shot, Cardinals advance 57-56
Top-seeds Fairfield, Massac, Herrin cruise into quarterfinals

ELDORADO – There will be no repeat champion in the 54th annual Eldorado Holiday Tournament.

Norris City-Omaha-Enfield sophomore Joe Melton saw to that Thursday night in the seventh game of the 16-team bracketed event.

With his club trailing by two-points 56-54 with :08.6 remaining, NCOE senior leader Brandon Skaggs drove to the basket and his pass found Melton in the right corner.

Melton caught the ball and took a step back to make sure his feet were behind the 3-point arc.

The sophomore delivered the goods as his 20-footer found the bottom of the net as the horn sounded on the upset victory for the scrappy Fighting Cardinals.

It was the team's 10th made 3-point shot of the contest as they advanced to the championship side quarterfinals with the huge victory.

Melton finished his night a the NCOE top scorer with 15-points while Skaggs tossed in 12.

All in all, nine different Cards put points on the board as Coach Jim Tucker's club improved to 4-6 for the 2018-19 season and they now get to play against Harrisburg in the final quarterfinal game on Friday night at 8:30 pm.

Anyone who has watched NCOE play in the past few years understands that this team is sort of like Will Rogers when it comes to the arc.

“They've never met a three-point shot they didn't like.”

They were 10-of-22 from the 19'9” line.

“That (the final play) is good senior leadership (Skaggs) in trusting in your teammates. Brandon has been an important part of our program since Day One. He has proved what he is capable of doing,” said Coach Tucker. “Their pressure (Eldorado) hurt us late, we knew it was coming but it hurt us. But we persevered. I told them that keeping our cool in this atmosphere when you have this big of a crowd, the history and the tradition. But tonight we made the right plays at the right time.”

For Eldorado, and head coach Josh Bradley, it was a bitter defeat in a game where they didn't play well, in the first half especially, but had a chance late to win.

The Eagles dropped into the consolation side of the bracket after seeing their nine-game EHT win streak snapped.

Six-foot-three senior Joe Mayberry led the 9-3 Eagles and all scorers with 21-points.

Aiden Whitlock, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, tossed in 12-points for Eldorado.

Whitlock nailed the two free throws that broke the game's final tie just before the Skaggs/Melton heroics.

“We are a young basketball team and we don't shoot the ball very well,” said Coach Bradley. “We don't always make great decisions but it is a day-to-day learning experience of just trying to get better.”

NCOE seemingly had the game in hand late in the fourth quarter as the Cards held a 49-42 lead and the momentum with under four minutes remaining.

However five late turnovers, 19 in all, allowed the hosts back in the contest.

Eldorado converted a trio of fast breaks after steals.

Junior Hunter Sizemore, Whitlock and Mayberry were culprits, with Mayberry turning his into a three-point play and a 54-52 advantage with 1:03 remaining.

Melton got a bit of a preview of his last second shot as he took a pass from sophomore teammate Ty Money for a lay in to even things with just :12.4 left.

Whitlock got to the foul line as Skaggs was called on for a blocking foul.

Melton's second opportunity sunk the Eagles' chances at a three-peat at their own tournament.

Coach Bradley can point to a first half of committing 11-turnovers and hitting just 34 percent from the floor for the game (17-of-50) and just 5-of-16 from the arc.

“We made a lot of mistake tonight, the small things with a young team. As much as you hate losing you hope that you learn from this,” said Coach Bradley. “You hope that maybe this loss hurts bad enough that the kids understand that you have to be ready to play every single night no matter who you are playing. You're not going to show up and win just because you are Eldorado.”

The Eagles were still in charge in the second quarter, leading 25-21 with just under two minutes remaining before halftime.

But NCOE got a conventional three-point play from Money and a 3-point bomb from Melton, his first of two in the contest as NCOE led 27-25 at the break.

Despite Mayberry scoring ten of his points in the second quarter, Eldorado trailed heading into the intermission.

Both teams, without question, played better in the second half.

Eldorado cut back on its turnovers while NCOE shot the ball better.

The Cardinals got 3-pointers in the third quarter from senior Houston Money and sophomore Jack Riggs.

Skaggs followed up the Riggs bomb with a pair of free throws for a 41-36 lead with :56.7 left in the third.

Mayberry responded with a 3-pointer to close the frame at 41-39.

An 8-3 run to start the fourth quarter gave the Cardinals the belief that they could win.

Melton scored nine of his points in the final eight minutes, including back-to-back buckets in the paint to open the scoring.

A baseline drive by junior Trey Simmons and a Money drive for a score (see photo) while being fouled by Shewmaker, pushed the NCOE spread to 49-42.

“We got some lucky bounces at the very end but I'm very proud of the whole team. They (the kids) play hard and I knew that we could hang with them (Eldorado). We were just blessed that we got the ball for the last shot,” said Coach Tucker.

Eldorado got additional scoring help from Lydayyea Shewmaker, a 6-foot-3 junior, added 11-points for the Eagles.

“Norris City came in with a good game plan and they shot really well,” said Coach Bradley. “We came up on the wrong side of the scoreboard.”

For NCOE, besides Melton and Skaggs, Riggs hit two 3-pointers for six-points and Coach Tucker got three different Cardinals scoring five-points each; CJ Richardson, Simmons and Money.

All showed the way in the important win.

This program has authored some other first round upsets in Eldorado Holiday Tournament history.

They shocked the Benton Rangers in back-to-back years (47-38 in 2004; 56-47 in 2005) at this event for then head coach Doug Miller and, his assistant at the time, Coach Jim Tucker who is now in charge of the program.

The Cardinals will face Harrisburg, an upset winner over fourth-seeded Gallatin County on Friday.

The Bulldogs got a last second 3-pointer from sophomore Andrew Bittle in beating the Hawks' 46-45.

Eldorado and Gallatin County will play for a second time this season as the Hawks topped the Eagles, 53-46, on November 30th.

“This was a prime-time game and I am so proud of my athletes,” said Coach Tucker. “Everyday, day in and day out, we practice for situations like this.”

Game 7
Norris City-Omaha-Enfield
Norris City-Omaha-Enfield (57) – Brown 0 0 0-0 0, Riggs 0 2 0-1 6, Skaggs 1 2 4-6 12, T. Money 2 0 1-2 5, Richardson 1 0 3-3 5, Barton 0 1 0-0 3, Simmons 1 1 0-0 5, H. Money 0 1 0-0 3, Melton 4 2 1-2 15, O'Neal 0 1 0-0 3.
2FG-9, 3FG-10, FT-9-16, PF-21.

Eldorado (56)
– Barton 0 0 0-0 0, Whitlock 3 1 3-5 12, Mayberry 2 4 5-5 21, Milligan 1 0 0-0 2, Jenkins 1 0 2-4 4, Byrd 1 0 0-0 2, Sizemore 1 0 2-2 4, Shewmaker 3 0 5-7 11.
2FG-12, 3FG-5, FT-17-23, PF-19.

Fouled Out
– Shewmaker - Eldorado.
Technical Fouls
– Sizemore - Eldorado.
The third-seeded Tigers romped past the Bulldogs in Game 2 of opening day behind 21-points from senior Hayden Holloway and 17-points from junior Brandon Anthony.

Senior Drew Ringel added 15-points as head coach Sayler Shurtz gets his first taste of the winner's bracket in his second season in the event.

Last December CWC topped the Tigers in the opening round on a last second shot.

The Tigers romped home with the consolation championship last season.

The Bulldogs got 23-points from junior guard Ethan Mahon in the loss as head coach Kevin Wolff saw his club slip to 2-7 overall.

Herrin (7-3) will play West Frankfort in the quarterfinals on Friday.

The Bulldogs came back and won against Anna-Jonesboro in the consolation graveyard game on the first night, eliminating the Wildcats, 71-56.

Coach Joe Hosman's Patriots (8-2) struggled before advancing to the quarterfinals.

Hamilton County (1-10) and head coach Doug Miller were looking for an upset but Massac held them off to advance.

The Patriots were led by junior Jase Mizell with 14-points and junior Julian Russell with 13.

The Foxes got 10-points from junior Garrett Webb in defeat.

In one of the most lopsided games in the tournament's history, the Mules wasted little time in taking care of the Wildcats.

Coach Scott McElravy's top-seeded club improved to 12-1 with the triumph with 12 players scoring.

Six-foot-three sophomore Landon Zurliene topped the scoring with 16-points while Reese Lee netted 13.

Senior guard Jayzale O'Neal added 11 as the Mules led 48-15 at halftime.

Five-foot-nine freshman Colton Mitchell scored six-points to lead the Wildcats (2-9) for Coach Keil Peebles.

In other games at the 54th annual Eldorado Holiday Tournament, West Frankfort advanced to the quarterfinals with a 72-52 win in Game 1 in the event over Anna-Jonesboro.
Edwards County got past Vienna, 66-54 in Game 4 while Carterville topped Hardin County 36-21.
Harrisburg defeated Gallatin County, 46-45.
In the consolation bracket Carmi-White County bested Anna-Jonesboro, eliminating the Wildcats from the event.