Portageville beats Risco 54-46 for Clarkton Christmas Tournament title

Wednesday, December 20, 2017
Photo by Cody Tucker Nathan Burnett, left, scored a team-high 19 points for Risco during the Tigers’ 54-46 loss to Portageville in the Clarkton Christmas Tournament final. 

CLARKTON — Despite a strong first-half performance from top-seeded Risco, No. 2 seeded Portageville earned key baskets to overpower the Tigers and claim the first-place trophy at the 39th Annual Clarkton Christmas Tournament Friday night.

The clash was capped by a game-high 31-point performance from Portageville senior Ian Torrey, who led the Bulldogs down the stretch by scoring 17 points in the fourth quarter alone. Torrey helped the Bulldogs fight back from Risco’s convincing first-half performance, which left the Tigers leading 23-16 at halftime.

“I didn’t think we were playing with the intensity that we were playing with last night,” said Portageville coach Jason Irby after the game. “We weren’t blocking out. We had just out-rebounded a really big St. Louis Christian team by 10, and at halftime Risco was out-rebounding us. I just didn’t think our kids were playing with the effort that it takes to win a championship game.”

That changed in the second half. The Bulldogs sprinted out to an 8-0 run in the second half to claim a 24-23 lead. Still, Risco kept themselves in the game thanks to three pointers from EJ Myers and Nathan Burnett. 

“They’ve got some kids that can shoot, and the (Morgan) Ludwig kid is good inside” Irby added. “Coach (Brandon) Blankenship does a great job with those kids.”

Blankenship praised his players for sticking to his plan early in the game.

“For just about three quarters we executed our game plan,” he said. “We were trying to sag off and pack it in a little bit, and not let Torrey get going driving to the basket. We know he’s a good shooter, but I was worried about him attacking the basket and getting fouls on our guys too. If they were throwing in the post, we tried to double team. I felt like our guys really executed that game plan.”

The Tigers were ultimately overwhelmed by Torrey, Portageville’s 6’5” senior scorer.

“He just hit some big shots,” Blankenship added. “I felt like we were guarding him, but big-time players hit big shots. He stepped up for them.”

Irby heaped praise on Risco’s grit throughout the game, which he saw as a key trait of Blankenship’s program.

“The thing I’ve noticed with them,” Irby explained. “In three different games this year they would be down big at halftime, and then come back and win. They have a lot of heart, they’ve been a really successful program in recent years, so I knew they weren’t going to go down without a fight.”

Scoring from Risco came from four players that make up a talented and experienced group of players for Blankenship’s Class 1 squad.

“Burnett, he’s our ball-handler and he’s one of our floor generals out there,” Blankenship said. “He hit some big shots for us early and kind of kept us going. Ludwig is our only senior and he plays his heart out every night. Myers got hot there … got a couple shots that kept us going.”

“I thought it was a well-played game. It’s kind of a game of runs, and they just made the last.”

Portageville’s team left Clarkton glowing after winning an elusive trophy. It’s one that Irby hopes will propel the team throughout the season, but first it will tackle another challenge by facing the host of the Bloomfield Christmas Tournament on Dec. 26.

“It’s going to be a tough challenge, playing them at their place,” Irby said. “They always have a great crowd and they’re a good team; and they’re well-coached. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”

Meanwhile, Risco left knowing that they stood toe-to-toe with a talented Class 3 team. 

“Portageville’s a good team. They’re well-coached and athletic,” Blanksehip said. “They’re obviously a bigger school—we’re Class 1 and they’re Class 3. Any time we can compete on a big stage and give ourselves an opportunity down the stretch, that’s always a positive.”

The Tigers return to action Monday, Dec. 18 at home against Bell City.

No. 2 Portageville 54, No. 1 Risco 46

PHS 5 11 17 21 - 54

RHS 7 16 11 12 - 46

PORTAGEVILLE (54) - Hunter Gates 6, Ian Torrey 31, Bub Lance 9, Daniel Carter 4, MIkel Moody 4 FG 21 FT 5/7 71% (3-pointers: Torrey 4, Lance 3).

RISCO (46)- EJ Myers 12, Nathan Burnett 19, Morgan Ludwig 12, Garrett Young 3 FG 18 FT 2/4 50% (3-pointers: Myers 4, Burnett 3, Young 1).

Photo by Cody Tucker Ian Torrey scored a game-high 31 points against Risco, including 17 points in the fourth quarter.
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