Poplar Bluff powers through NMCC for 80-60 conference victory

Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Poplar Bluff's Willie Lucas (22) attempts a 3-pointer against New Madrid County Central during a boys basketball game Tuesday, January 31, 2017, at New Madrid County Central High School. (Chris Pobst/Standard Democrat)

NEW MADRID, Mo. -- The New Madrid County Central boys basketball team simply had no answer for Willie Lucas, Dominique Hardimon and the rest of Poplar Bluff's offense.

The Mules cruised to an 80-60 SEMO Conference win over NMCC on Tuesday bouncing back from their shocking loss to Cape Central four days ago.

Lucas led all scorers with 26 points on 9 for 17 shooting while pulling down nine rebounds. Hardimon scored 21 on 9 of 14 shooting and had 10 rebounds. Rodney Houston added 15 points on 6 of 9 from the floor.

New Madrid County Central's Johnnie Walker (12) attempts a shot between Poplar Bluff's Dominique Hardimon (20) Nic Rowland (33) and Willie Lucas (22) during a boys basketball game Tuesday, January 31, 2017, at New Madrid County Central High School. (Chris Pobst/Standard Democrat)

"I think we woke up a little bit," Poplar Bluff coach William Durden said. "We came out and played hard this game and I think we kind of needed the Cape game. Cape came out and played us real physical early and kind of shocked us a little bit... They never really got into the game and tonight they did."

It didn't take long for the Mules, whose 63-55 loss to the Tigers halted a six-game winning streak since Christmas, to establish themselves as the clear frontrunner on Tuesday, especially in the paint.

They never trailed and were looking for Hardimon and Lucas to do the heavy lifting. Both found ways to score against NMCC's undersized roster.

Lucas, a 6-6 senior, shot over the top of the Eagles defense and hit four of his first six 3-point attempts in the first half while Hardimon, a 6-3 sophomore, bullied his way around the basket for layups and offensive rebounds.

Nic Rowland added yet another force for NMCC to contend with on the glass. The 6-5 sophomore finished with 10 rebounds, two blocks and three points.

The Mules out-rebounded NMCC 39-29.

"They have all the pieces," NMCC coach Travis Day said about Poplar Bluff. "They have good outside shooters, they got size inside, they got rebounders, they got guys that can dribble. When you have a team like that you have to do a lot of things right and we made mistakes that they got us on."

NMCC's only opposition it could throw at Poplar Bluff's height advantage was 6-4 sophomore Jaurous Haynes. No other player for the Eagles is over 6-1.

Poplar Bluff's Dominique Hardimon (20) attempts a layup against New Madrid County Central during a boys basketball game Tuesday, January 31, 2017, at New Madrid County Central High School. (Chris Pobst/Standard Democrat)

Poplar Bluff (13-6, 3-1 SEMO Conference) jumped out to a 16-4 lead after 3:30 minutes of play and led 23-11 after the first quarter behind eight points from Houston, seven from Hardimon and six from Lucas.

"That's a heck of a combo, especially against a team our size," Day said. "They could just shoot over our zone so we tried to mix it up. But, when we made mistakes, they made us pay for it."

A 20-7 run to end the second quarter put the Mules ahead 47-25 at the half. By that time Lucas had 19 points and seven rebounds. Hardimon was at 14 and 6.

"Willie got going early and he never got going against Cape," Durden said. "Dom has kind of been our rock this whole season. We just have guys that continue to step up and hopefully, by the end of the year, we can get healthy and start playing to our potential."

The Mules pushed their lead to a comfortable 26 points by the end of the third quarter and sailed from there.

"We didn't have enough fire power to stay with them," Day said. "Then we didn't play great enough defensively to slow them down. When you go against that and you're losing on both ends, you get what we got out there."

New Madrid County Central's Javarcus Word tries to dribble around Poplar Bluff's Adrian Webb during a boys basketball game Tuesday, January 31, 2017, at New Madrid County Central High School. (Chris Pobst/Standard Democrat)

Poplar Bluff did all this without the services of recently named five star recruit, Marcedus Leech.

The sophomore, who was labeled a top-25 player in the nation for his class, was held out as a precaution with lower back pain, according to Durden.

No official word if he'll be available for Friday's SEMO Conference battle with state-ranked Sikeston.

"He's been going to therapy and hopefully everything will be alright for him," Durden said. "We just wanted to rest him for a little bit."

NMCC (9-13, 1-5) was led by Javarcus Word's 17 points, five rebounds and two steals. He scored 13 in the second half. Palmer Campbell added 12 points, Johnnie Walker chipped in eight points and four rebounds, and Craig Beasley added eight points and five rebounds.

Poplar Bluff shot 44 percent (28 for 63) from the field and were 16 for 23 from the free throw line. NMCC finished at 40 percent (23 for 57) from the floor and 8 of 13 from the charity stripe.

Poplar Bluff23242112--80
NMCC11141718--60

POPLAR BLUFF (80) -- Adrian Webb 1, Tyler Cline 6, Rodney Anderson 15, Steven Anderson 2, Dominique Hardimon 21, Willie Lucas 26, Colby Bess 6, Nic Rowland 3. FG 28 FT 16-23 F 14. (3-pointers: Cline 1, Houston 2, Lucas 5. Fouled out: none.)

NMCC (60) -- Palmer Campbell 12, Johnnie Walker 8, Craig Beasley 8, Javarcus Word 17, Eddie Grandberry 4, Ronnie King 3, Jaurous Haynes 6, Tra Ranson 2. FG 23 FT 8-13 F 18. (3-pointers: Campbell 1, Beasley 1, Word 3, King 1. Fouled out: none.)

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