Pride can be a powerful motivating force and it was one of the main factors in the Show-Me State Games Division I basketball championship Sunday.
The St. Louis Pistons defeated the Rolla Pepsi team 84-81 in two overtimes at the MU Student Rec Center. They won despite playing the final two minutes of the second overtime without leading scorer Maurice Baker, a former first team All-Big 12 performer at Oklahoma State.
Baker, who hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 71 at the end of the first overtime, left because of leg cramps, but his teammates were not fazed.
The Pistons took the lead for good at 78-77 when Seaweed Johnson made a driving layup. A 3-pointer by Jerome Mary, a basket from Nick Benson and a free throw from Johnson sealed the win for the Pistons.
“They knew they had to step up and win this for St. Louis,” Pistons general managerRicky Riley said. “If we had gone back to St. Louis without the title, we would have heard some talk from some of the other St. Louis teams that were here. Most of the guys (from St. Louis) that were here all know each other.”
The Pistons trailed 32-21 at halftime, but they stepped up the defensive intensity in the second half and fought back to take a 56-53 lead with 22 seconds left. Rolla’s Kerry Darting hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 56 and force the first overtime.
Rolla led 71-68 with 12 seconds to go in the first overtime, but Baker hit a quick 3-pointer off an inbounds pass to tie.
Rolla had a chance to win on the next play, but Brian Shaw missed a lay-up and a tip-in at the buzzer.
Ike Muelo led the Rolla team, which consisted of the basketball team at the University of Missouri-Rolla, with 40 points. Brian Westre and Kerry Darting, Rolla’s regular leading scorers, both fouled out in the first overtime.
“I thought it was a phenomenal (team) effort,” Rolla coach Ken Darting said. “When Brian and Kerry went out, Ike just took over. He was amazing. If there’s a better point guard around than Ike, I’m anxious to see him.”
Darting said most of his players expected to go home after their first game today and were happy to win second after defeating two good teams to get to the final.
Rolla defeated the St. Louis Trotters, the defending DI champion 78-62 in the quarterfinals and beat the St. Louis Outlaws 71-47 in the semifinals. The Trotters featured former MU forward Corey Tate.