By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. —
The upstart Pierce City High School boys basketball team fell just short of turning a memorable season into the remarkable on Saturday.
The Eagles, who celebrated winning their first district championship a week ago, lost 52-47 to Iberia in a quarterfinal game of the MSHSAA Class 2 playoffs.
Isaac Minnick’s steal and layup put the Rangers ahead for good at 45-43 with 4:15 minutes remaining in the contest in the O’Reilly Family Event Center at Drury University.
Pierce City could muster only a basket by Cody Fitchpatrick in the remaining time as the Rangers nailed down their trip to Columbia for the semifinals.
Said Pierce City coach Matt Street: “We just couldn’t get the ball to go down. We had some good looks.”
Iberia (27-3), returning to the semifinals for the first time since its fourth place in Class M in 1968, will face undefeated West Platte at 8:20 Thursday night at Mizzou Arena.
Pierce City, co-champion in the Spring River Valley Conference with Diamond at 8-1, finished 19-11 overall.
There were ties in the fourth quarter at 37, 41 and 43 before the heroics by 6-foot-2 senior Minnick. Darrien Dickey, a 6-1 junior, connected with about 2 1/2 minutes left to give Iberia a 47-43 lead.
Fitchpatrick, a 6-2 senior, quickly answered for the Eagles for a two-point deficit.
Iberia then began working the clock with the Eagles, with just two team fouls, frantically fouling in an attempt ironically to send the Rangers to the foul line.
The Rangers cashed just 5 of 10 chances from the line in the fourth period. But Pierce City couldn’t take advantage.
The Rangers received 16 points from 6-9, 275-pound freshman Dexter Frisbie — he turns 15 on Wednesday — 12 from Dickey and 11 from Minnick.
Said Street: “They had a huge size advantage and we talked about sagging in. They did a good job of adjusting in the second half.”
Frisbie, perhaps a bit nervous and slapped with two quick fouls, was scoreless in the first half. But he responded in stellar fashion in the second half with all of his points.
Said Ranger coach Steve Scholfield: “Dexter played like a freshman in that first half. We talked to him about slowing down. He still was playing good defense in the first half but overall he was much better in the second.
“Grit and mental toughness were keys for us down the stretch,” Scholfield said. “We were tough defensively down the stretch.”
Each team appeared to get after it on defense. There was no backing down.
Said Street: “We’ve come a long way with our mental toughness this season. And I thought we did an outstanding job protecting the paint in this game. But Frisbie is going to score because he’s so big.”
The Eagles were led in scoring by Fitchpatrick (17) and 5-11 sophomore Kole Kelley (13). Kelley had three treys.
Street played basketball for Scholfield at Crocker High School and they embraced for several seconds after the game.