Effingham Daily News
Things got rough down the stretch and Neoga coach Bob Lockart said his team got tight late, but Neoga did enough to advance past Palestine/Hutsonville 53-48 at the Cumberland Regional.
The Indians led 41-26 with 2:32 left in the third quarter, but saw the lead drop to five points in the final minute of the game before time ran out.
Still, a win’s a win for Lockart and Neoga.
“This time of the year, this is all you want to do,” he said. “It wasn’t a beauty pageant.”
Neoga jumped out to a 12-5 lead in the first quarter before an 8-0 run by the Tigers pushed them out in front 13-12 after the first quarter.
The Indians quickly rebounded, scoring the first basket of the quarter and steadily growing the lead to seven by halftime, going up 27-20.
As the lead grew into the third quarter, it was a number of Indians making their marks, with Brock Aleshire and Trevor Moore hitting solid baskets to supplement the counted upon offense of leading scorer Jake Baker and point guard Luke Baker.
“We had moments where all of our kids, going against that triangle-and-two, we got some easy buckets and each kids did different things at different times,” Lockart said. “We just never got consistent.”
Pal/Hut cut a double digits lead back to nine with 3:08 left in the third, before Luke Baker was fouled on a successful 3-pointer and converted a four-point play, and a Jake Baker layup pushed the lead to 41-26.
Still, the Tigers weren’t done pressuring, and quickly cut he lead back to five points within four minutes, giving Neoga all it bargained for.
But Neoga (16-14) made its free throws down the stretch, missing just one on the night stopping the upset bid in its tracks by the 6-21 Pal/Hut Tigers.
“We’ve been doing this the last month,” Lockart said. “It’s the right time, the best thing about it is, I’ve been in it long enough, you win tonight, the next one’s more important.”
Jake Baker led the team with 18 points, Luke Baker had 10 and Trevor Moore had eight off the bench. Graham Alspach led all scorers with 19 for Pal/Hut.
Neoga puts its season on the line Friday against the top-seeded Dieterich Movin’ Maroons, the co-NTC regular champions who beat them twice in the regular season. Lockart knows it’ll take a great effort from his Indians.
“We are going to have to play one hell of a ballgame to beat them, but our kids know that,” he said. “We just appreciate the opportunity.”
The Cumberland Regional title game begins at 7 p.m.
Pal/Hut 13 7 13 15 48
Neoga 12 15 16 10 53
Pal/Hut: B. Newlin 2, Ferguson 10, Lowrance 2, Alspach 19, Williams 9, Weaver 2, Knecht 4
Neoga: L. Baker 10, Kersey 4, Krikie 7, Aleshire 4, Moore 8, J. Baker 18, Atwell 2