|Union City gains true elite status with Poplar Bluff title |
|Make room New England Patriots. |
You have company at 16-0.
Like the NFL’s Pats, the Union City boys’ basketball team completed a portion of its schedule with a perfect mark after the Tornadoes claimed the championship of the prestigious First Midwest Bank Shootout in Poplar Bluff (Mo.) to cap the first half of their 2007-08 season.
UC’s impressive feat included victories over three Class 5A schools from different states on consecutive nights, the last a 64-59 win over Harrison (Ga.) in the championship of the 21st annual event Saturday night.
The Twisters had advanced to play for the tourney title the night before on Friday when Pat Polk’s three-quarter court heave at the buzzer lifted the locals to an improbable 92-90 triumph over Raytown South (Mo.) in a game that Union City had trailed by 13 points with just under three minutes remaining.
The tournament championship not only ran the Tornadoes’ record to 16-0, but also marked their second such title of the holiday season after they’d previously won the Battle for the State tournament crown the weekend before at David Lipscomb University in Nashville.
“It was a very prestigious tournament when you look at the list of past champions, and I believe it was an excellent experience for our kids to play the caliber of competition we saw and have success, ” Union City head coach Shane Sisco said. “We really needed to face the kinds of teams and kids that we played. Everybody was bigger than us, at least two or three were more athletic than we were, and I think it served as a great measuring stick for our team.”
“I believe we further identified some things we need to get better at, and the teams there exposed us in some areas that teams here don’t have the personnel to do so. And given that we’ll play the two most athletic teams left on our schedule the next two games (Lake County and Humboldt), I believe it was a great tune-up for that.”
Reigning Class A Mr. Basketball MJ Brown was at his very best against UC’s toughest competition to date at Poplar Bluff, totaling a career-high 39 points in the semifinal triumph and 25 more in the championship game to finish the three-day event with 92 points. He and teammate Nic Brooks were both named to the all-tourney team for their efforts.
The Twisters will now enjoy a few days’ worth of well-deserved rest before beginning the second half of their season Friday night at Tiptonville against Lake County in a District 14A showdown against the 15-2 Falcons. UC is 8-0 in league play this year and will be looking to extend its regular season district winning streak to 31 games over a span of three seasons.
The following is a recap of the Tornadoes’ weekend games.
Union City 64, Harrison 59
The Tornadoes ran off 11 unanswered points in the third quarter as part of a 14-2 stretch to end the quarter to erase a small deficit, then hit 9-of-14 foul shots in the final frame to lock up the tourney’s top hardware.
Brown’s 25 points include four 3-pointers. Brooks also drained a quartet of trifectas and added 14 points, while Andre Coby had 10 makers and a couple of critical offensive rebounds down the stretch.
Perhaps the second most critical statistic was that the Twisters outrebounded a Harrison lineup that measured 6-7, 6-6, 6-5, 6-3 and 6-2 by a 32-22 count.
“They were the biggest teams we’ve played against in my nine years at Union City,” Sisco claimed.
UC, which ended up hitting 11-of-30 from 3-point range after missing 11 of its first 12 attempts, trailed 15-13 after one and 32-29 at the half before rallying.
Union City 92, Raytown South 90
Polk’s unlikely heroic feat came after Maurcie Woodard missed a pair of free throws with 3.5 seconds to play. Polk snagged the rebound from the second errant toss, dribbled through a pair of Cardinal defenders and hurled an effort at the basket from an estimated 57 feet away that bounced off the backboard and rattled in at the final buzzer.
The Twisters were seemingly down and out, trailing by 13 points with 2:45 to play before they flurried behind Brown, who had 19 of his 39 markers in the final eight minutes. The Redbirds contributed to their own demise by missing eight charities in the final two minutes and ended the night just 11-of-28 in all from the line.
Union City trailed 85-72 with just under three minutes left, but scored 11 of the next 13 points — most as a direct result of their vaunted fullcourt pressure. A pair of Brown foul shots got the Tornadoes within a deuce, and the UC star’s pull-up jumper trimmed the gap to 90-89 with 35 ticks showing to set up a frantic final seconds.
Raytown’s Rian Pearson missed two free throws and the Twisters rebounded and attempted to set up Brown with a final shot, but he picked up an offensive foul, then was whistled for his fifth before the Cardinals inbounded the ball with less than four seconds left.
The teams played a break-neck pace in the first half when they combined for 90 points and entered the break deadlocked at 45.
Despite relentless pressure, UC was guilty of just eight turnovers the entire game, while RS was charged with 15.
“They were so quick and athletic. People around here who think we play fast, should’ve seen them,” Sisco said, only half-jokingly.
Both Brooks and Lavan Mosley joined Brown in double figures with 10 points apiece.