Chaminade Beats Poplar Bluff, Advances to 6th Final Four in 7 Years


Owen Boyette , Sports Editor, Basketball Beat-Writer

When the Red Devils hit the floor before Friday night’s opening tipoff, the team looked around and saw a sight they had not season all season: a packed gym. With no spectator capacity limits, the Poplar Bluffs stands were completely full of the opposition’s supporters. While a few Chaminade fans made the trip down to southeast Missouri, the squad knew they were in a hostile environment.

After winning the opening tip, Tarris Reed was able to tap in the basketball on a put back shot. The Mules responded with a Joseph Hardimon pullup jumper bringing the score to 2-2. Both schools traded baskets until Tarris Reed sunk a layup, was fouled, and hit his free throw to give CCP a 7-4 lead. Gavin Rivers and Joseph Hardimon proceeded to hit back to back layups where both were fouled. Fortunately for the Red Devils, neither player hit their free throw. As Coach Bennett saw his team down 8-7 with 3:56 left in the 1st, he decided to call timeout.

Out of the break, Nilavan Daniels drained back to back three pointers to regain the Chaminade lead. Mark Jackson fought through contact to sink a layup and Walt Straughter buried a 3pter off an inbounds play to brings CCP’s total to 18. On the defensive end, Darian Webb beat Jackson off the dribble, drove inside the paint, and scored a layup. Darion Combs and Webb both laid in the ball, and Chance Campbell sunk a layup at the buzzer. After the 1st quarter, Chaminade lead 18-16.

To open up the 2nd quarter action, BJ Ward nailed a jumper from behind the arch and Reed slammed down a transition dunk thanks to a Nilavan Daniels pass, the Red Devils saw their lead grow to 7. Poplar Bluff was not fazed however, Hardimon beat Damien Mayo off the dribble to get the ball in the basket as well as hitting two free throws. Gavin Rivers did his part by knocking down a 3 and just like that, with 5:11 left in the half, the score was tied at 23 all.

Coming out of Poplar Bluff’s timeout, Webb sunk a layup over BJ Ward to give the Mules their second lead of the game. CCP transitioned to offense and got the ball inside to Reed where the 6’10 big man spun around his defender right into a monster dunk to tie the game up. A Chaminade defensive stop lead to a timeout with 4:00 remaining in the 2nd quarter.

Nate Straughter banked in a three pointer off the inbounds play, but Gage Rivers responded by splitting two Red Devil defenders and laying the ball up. Reed scored the final 4 points of the half with a dunk, and a banked in push shot at the buzzer CCP lead 32-27 at half.

Chaminade dominated the 3rd quarter by outscoring the mules 22-7. Just as he did in the 1st quarter, Nilavan Daniels swished back to back threes which, at that point in the game, extended CCP’s lead to 42-29. Filip Sinobad matched Daniels with a three of his own at the top of the arch, and the Mules Called timeout with 3:54 left in the 3rd. Nate Straughter’s trey ball just bounced in to push the lead to 17. The Mules scored their last points of the quarter with a Campbell 3-point basket. In an effort to kill any Poplar Bluff momentum, Coach Bennett called timeout with 2:10 left in the 3rd.

Damien Mayo performed a highlight, transition, layup by spinning around his defender while being fouled. Mayo got the layup to foul but couldn’t sink his free throw. Walt Straughter rose high in the air, grabbed an offensive rebound, and put the ball back in to score the put back. Lastly, Tarris Reed  banked in push shot at the buzzer after receiving a half court pass from Ward. To end the 3rd, CCP led 54-34.

The 4th quarter of Friday Night’s game picked up right where the 3rd left off. After Hardimon scored a layup, Mayo proceeded to swish four straight free throws and the lead ballooned to 22. Bluff just wouldn’t quit as Hardimon stole the inbounds pass the knocked down a layup.

Chaminade couldn’t answer on their offensive position but shut down the Mules defensively. A steal allowed for Mayo to leak out, receive a pass, and run full steam ahead towards a clear rim. With no defenders in his way, Mayo leaped into the air, windmilled the basketball, and just slightly miss timed the dunk, so the ball bounced off the rim and to the hands of a Poplar Bluff defender. While the almost-SportsCenter-top-10 play could have been the final nail in the Mule’s coffin, instead, it was a spark that ignited a 13-1 Poplar Bluff run.

For Nearly 5 minutes of game time, Chaminade couldn’t get the ball in the basket, and conversely, Poplar Bluff very easily could. The home team had all the momentum in the world, and as Joseph Hardimon thundered home a fast break steal, the score sat at 59-51. Poplar Bluff’s fans roared watching their team come within striking distance and the Red Devils couldn’t believe what they were witnessing.

Finally, after so many scoreless Chaminade possessions, Mayo was sent to the free throw line, where the junior shooting guard calmly knocked down both shots to bring CCP’s lead up to 10, 61-51. With 2:17 to go in the game, the visiting squad called their last timeout hoping to strategize the last few possessions of the game.

A Red Devil stop lead to Reed visiting the free throw line and sinking one of two shots. Just like he had all night, Joseph Hardimon went right down the floor and responded with a layup keeping the Mules in the game. A CCP free throw followed, and Poplar Bluff made their final basket of the game on a jump shot to bring the score to 63-55. The final minute and a half was all Red Devils, as Daniels, Reed, and Nate Straughter went a combined 4 of 5 from the free throw line. A Tarris Reed Dunk punctuated the victory and Chaminade escaped with a 69-55 win.

Friday night’s win sent the team back to the final four for the second year in a row and for the 6th time in 7 seasons. Chaminade will play Kickapoo Friday March 19th at Missouri State at 2:00pm.