By KYLE MAYHUGH
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
CENTER, Mo. -- The South Shelby boys basketball team aced its final regular-season test and handed Mark Twain its first home loss 69-56 on Friday night. The win secured the Clarence Cannon Conference title for South Shelby.
The Cardinals (19-5) never trailed and pulled away throughout the game with an answer to every Tigers' rally.
"Our defense was pretty good for the most part," South Shelby coach Philip Dunkle said. "The kids really tried to extend that lead in the second half, which is important."
Senior forward Andre McClure led South Shelby with 18 points, and Wyatt Proper added 10 points. The Cardinals' two big men thrived on open layups from turnovers and deft inside passing.
"That comes from the team passing the ball," Dunkle said. "We try not to dribble as much. We try to pass and get people involved."
Junior Adam Ellyson came off the bench to score 11 points for South Shelby.
"I come in and try to do my best," Ellyson said. "I try to come in and play defense and create turnovers. I felt like we played well. We got it to the bigs, and they scored. We have our two big guys, Wyatt and Andre, and they really do a good job down there."
For Mark Twain (9-13), a string of seven consecutive home victories to begin the season came to an end.
The Tigers hit seven 3-pointers but were frequently shut out from the interior offensively.
"We came out pretty slow," said Mark Twain coach Chad Reading. "Usually we come out on fire at home. I think it was the 1-2-2 zone they were playing. It really slowed us down. We didn't have an opportunity to get to the rim and had to take some outside shots early, and we kind of lost some guys on rotation defensively all night. That hurt us."
South Shelby's Cabe Simpson hit an open 3-pointer in the opening minutes to give his team a 7-0 lead, and the Cardinals led 11-6 after the first quarter. A pair of 3-pointers from Logan Epperson accounted for Mark Twain's only scoring in the first quarter.
The Cardinals pulled away in the second quarter, with defensive pressure causing some backcourt turnovers and led 31-22 at halftime.
Ellyson followed his own outside shot and got a putback rebound early in the third quarter to extend South Shelby's lead to 38-24, but Mark Twain rallied from there with a hot hand from Garrett Jarman.
Jarman scored eight points on a 10-4 Tigers run. He cut the Cardinals' lead to 42-34 on a transition 3-pointer with 1:10 to go in the third quarter. Wyatt Proper answered with a spinning layup at the third-quarter buzzer, and the Cardinals pulled away steadily in the fourth quarter.
South Shelby, seeded second in the Class 2 District 5 tournament at Louisiana, Mo., will open districts against Paris at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
"We just have to sustain defensively and play defense," Dunkle said. "We've played some decent defense, and if we get rebounds we have a chance to stay in the game, and that's all you ask for."
Mark Twain, seeded fourth, will head to Palmyra, Mo., to play Clark County at 5:50 p.m. Monday. The Tigers won the previous matchup 59-55 at home.
"We've got to box out," Reading said. "Offensively, we've got to be aggressive and attack those big guys. We can't settle for outside jump shots. We shoot pretty well from outside, but we have to attack and get those big guys in foul trouble."