Monk, EPC slam lid on 3AAA-South District Title
Tribune Sports Staff
It has been said that one play in a game can set the tempo for the remainder of the game and can crush another team's hopes. This happened last Saturday night as EPC had a strong second quarter to capture the 3AAA-South Senior Boys District Tournament with a 70-39 victory over the number three seed Osceola Seminoles.
In the game, played at Rivercrest, both teams battled for the first few minutes in a game that looked similarly like the game played at Lepanto one year ago, before a packed house at Warrior Gym. However, EPC overcame a slow start and went on one of their patented runs to put the game out of reach. EPC jumped out to a 7-2 lead early in the first quarter, yet to see Osceola battle back and take the lead 12-9 with 3:06 left in the first quarter. Then, the game belonged to EPC. Three straight baskets by Keon Joplin provided the momentum for EPC to take the lead, yet a play at the end of the first quarter appeared to seal the deal. With just a few seconds left in the opening quarter, guard P.J. Lacy found forward Marcus Monk for a wide open alley oop, which Monk finished with a spectacular two handed dunk as the horn sounded. The play gave EPC a 22-14 lead after one quarter and they did not relinquish the lead.
In the second quarter, EPC went on a run, keyed by the play of Monk and Joplin. The two combined for 11 of the team's 14 points in the quarter and both players controlled the boards against a tall Osceola defense. The Seminoles were hurt in large part due to early foul trouble, which EPC used to its advantage, hitting free throws. EPC went into the locker room with a 38-27 halftime lead.
In the second half, EPC continued to control the momentum and pushed the basketball down the floor, with success. The Warriors moved the basketball around during the third quarter, as five different players scored in a four-minute period that saw EPC take a 61-33 lead after three quarters. Most of the fourth quarter was played under the 30-point mercy rule in the state of Arkansas that requires the clock to run continuously if a team reaches a 30-point lead.
EPC was led by four players in double figures. Marcus Monk led EPC with 21 points, while Keon Joplin scored 13 points. P.J. Lacy and Kedric Madden added 12 and 10 points, respectively, for EPC, who will now play Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. against the winner of Cave City and Pocahontas. Osceola was led in scoring by Charles Chalk with nine points.
The win over Osceola in the finals marks the second straight 3AAA-South Tournament championship for EPC, who have seen their share of success this year. In addition to defeating Osceola, the Warriors have defeated AAAAA team Jonesboro, AAAA teams Little Rock Mills and Jacksonville, AA number one Altheimer and Memphis Booker T. Washington in a tournament in Little Rock last month. The team's only loss this year came at the hands of Blue Valley Northwest, the number one team in AAAAAA in the state of Kansas at a tournament in November in Kansas City.
EPC Head Coach Kevin Kyzer told the Tri-City Tribune that his defense was good and that Joplin played a role in the game. Kyzer, who was selected as the top coach in the 3AAA-South after the game, stated, "Keon sparked us. He really got us going." Kyzer also noted that his team got the ball inside on virtually every possession in the second half.
EPC reached the finals Saturday night after a 72-23 victory Friday over the Manila Lions. After a 10-10 game early in the first quarter, EPC went on a 31-0 run in the next ten minutes to put the game out of reach. EPC, Osceola, Gosnell and Manila all advance to the Class AAA Boys Region 2 State Tournament this week at Riverview High School. In the girls division, Rivercrest, Valley View, Manila and EPC advance to the Class AAA Girls Region 2 State Tournament this week as well.