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By David Sharp
Both teams battled to the final play of the 36th Annual Highland Tournament boys’ third place game. Clark County forward Michael Brennan got away from Eagle defenders and powered to the goal, giving Clark County a 49-46 lead with 30 seconds remaining in the January 4, 2008 contest.
Cory Shultz pulled the Eagles within a point with 15 seconds showing on the clock. Bryan Plenge sank one of two free throws for a 50-48 edge with 9.9 seconds to play. Knox County had a shot for the win. The Indian defense was able to hold on for the 50-48 victory.
Knox County (5-5) played most of the game without standout guard Daniel McMahon due to injury. Cody Morgenstern, Brett Wilkerson, and Mitchel Penn gave the Eagles good minutes. Cory Shultz stepped up and led all scorers with 17 Knox County points.
The Eagles jumped out to a 12-7 lead. Clark County (5-3) closed the first quarter scoring the final four points, pulling within a 12-11 deficit after eight minutes of basketball.
Clark County continued what proved to be an 8-0 run to a 16-12 lead at the 2:35 mark of the second quarter. Cody Morgenstern drove the baseline and tied the contest at 16 with 62 seconds showing on the clock.
Dennis Dent put the Eagles back on top by a field goal. Clark County tied the score with 36 seconds remaining in the first half. The teams retired to the dressing room even at 18 all.
Clark County came out with an effective full court pressure defense in the third quarter. Michael Brennan capped a string of ten unanswered points with a Clark County bucket. The Indians led 28-18 with 5:12 showing on the third quarter clock.
Knox County battled back with the next nine straight points. Dennis Dent tossed in two free throws for the first KCHS points of the second half with 4:54 remaining in period three. Cory Shultz swished a momentum changing three pointer with 3:38 to go in the third quarter.
Cody Morgenstern scored followed by a Mitchel Penn bucket at the 1:40 mark of the third quarter. Knox County was within a point at 28-27. Ethan Allen answered for Clark County with 1:24 to go. Knox County had two chances to score during the final 40 seconds of the period, but could not penetrate a tough Clark County defense.
The Indians wound up outscoring the Eagles 12-9 during the third quarter, and took a 30-27 lead into the final eight minutes. Clark County came out strong to begin the fourth quarter.
Ethan Allen sank a pair of Clark County free throws and canned a three ball for a 41-33 Indian lead. Daniel McMahon came into the game for Knox County around the five minute mark with the Eagles trailing by eight points.
The Eagles did a better job of playing together after a three minute stretch at the start of the fourth quarter. Cory Shultz started another KCHS rally with a driving deuce with four minutes remaining in the game. Javis Vineyard stole the ball and extended the Clark County lead to 44-35 with 3:50 to go.
Shane Clouse scored six Knox County points during the fourth quarter. The 6’7" senior scored at the 2:42 mark of the fourth quarter, trimming the Indian edge to 44-39. Clark County missed two free throws with two minutes on the fourth quarter clock and led 46-41.
Cory Shultz made matters really interesting when he converted a half court steal into a field goal for a 46-44 Clark County lead with 63 seconds remaining in regulation time.
The Eagles lost Michael Brennan defensively on the other end of the court. Brennan was fouled and sank one Indian free throw for a 47-44 lead with 51 seconds to play. Daniel McMahon sank two clutch free throws, pulling the Eagles within a 47-46 deficit with 44.2 seconds remaining in regulation.
Michael Brennan powered through the KCHS defense for another bucket with 30 seconds showing on the clock for a 49-46 Clark County lead.
Knox County elected to go for the field goal. Cory Shultz sank a pressure packed lay up with 15 seconds to play in the game. Brian Plenge made one of two Clark County free throws with ten seconds remaining for a 50-48 Clark County lead.
The Eagles drove for the tying or winning basket. Clark County’s defense stopped Zach Parrish from driving to the hoop. Parrish turned and got the basketball to Daniel McMahon near the top of the key.
McMahon and a Clark County defender battled as time ran down. McMahon went for the win at the three point line. The question of contact on the play is for game film review and for the ages. No foul was called, much to the displeasure of Knox County supporters. The ball fell short at the buzzer and Clark County claimed third place by a 50-48 final score.
Knox County turned the basketball over 20 times, including at least twice during the last two minutes of the contest. Both teams played intense defense leading to numerous possession changes.
Clark County left the door open for the KCHS come back attempt at the free throw line. The Eagles sank 11 of 16 free throws, including 7-8 in the fourth quarter. The Indians went 13-23 at the charity stripe, 7-13 during the final eight minutes.
Ethan Allen led Clark County with 11 points. Michael Brennan and Javis Vineyard were in double figures with ten Clark County points each. Brian Plenge was next in line with nine Indian points.
"Knox County is a well coached ball club that plays hard," said Clark County coach Clint Smith. "We battled foul trouble just like Knox County battled foul trouble. We were lucky that we got two more points for the 32 minutes we played than they did."
"We can’t close out ball games right now," said Coach Smith. "We have to hit free throws and learn to handle the ball during pressure. Both teams came to play hard defensively. Both teams struggled to find their identity offensively."
Cory Shultz fired in a game high 17 Knox County points before fouling out late in the game. Shultz led the Eagles with four of their 12 assists. Dennis Dent scored 11 points, blocked three shots and had ten of the 21 KCHS game rebounds.
Shane Clouse battled foul trouble and the athletic Clark County front line for six KCHS points. Daniel McMahon and Cody Morgenstern scored four points each. Mitchel Penn added two Knox County points.
"We played hard," said Knox County coach Jesse Crawford. "Sometimes we don’t have a sense of urgency with the basketball in the first half. Those empty possessions come back to haunt you in the second half."
"Our guys fought back. We got down by eight (points) in the second half and fought back, that’s a good sign," said Coach Crawford. "We played without (Daniel) McMahon most of the game. I thought Cory Shultz had a wonderful Highland Tournament. He was the best player on the floor a lot of times this week."
"When Cory gets going like that, we have a three headed monster," said Crawford. "We are going to get better. With some of the teams we have played, we are one of the best 5-5 teams in the state of Missouri right now. We have two winnable games coming up this week. Scotland County is going to be hungry for us. It’s always a war up there."
"We just have to stay positive and get better in practice and improve every day," said Jesse Crawford.
Knox County hosts North Shelby in a Tri-Rivers Conference doubleheader on January 8. The Eagles travel to Scotland County for their conference games on Friday, January 11. Both games are scheduled to be broadcast live on KMEM Radio, 100.5 FM in Memphis, Mo.