By THE HERALD-WHIG STAFF
LaPLATA, Mo. -- The first possessions of overtime were futile for both the Marion County and North Shelby boys.
"When it comes down to us and them, and when you're that closely matched up, it comes down to players making plays at the end of the game," North Shelby coach Todd Cripe said.
Reed Plunkett made the big play.
His 3-pointer with about 2 1/2 minutes left to play put Marion County on top for good, and the Mustangs held on to win 55-49 in the championship game of the Class 1 District 10 tournament at LaPlata High School.
"You could just kind of feel the air go out of the building when (Plunkett) hit that shot," Cripe said. "It was such a defensive game that a 3-point lead is a lot of points."
North Shelby led 23-17 at halftime and by as many as 12 points in the third quarter, and it didn't relinquish the lead until 21 seconds remained in the game. Plunkett, who finished with 14 points, broke loose in the corner and made a 3-pointer to put Marion County ahead 45-43.
The Raiders (18-10) called a timeout with 15 seconds to play, and after a designed play failed to work, Lucas Daniel drove down the lane and hit a floater from 12 feet out at the buzzer to force overtime.
"At that point, I was just happy the game was still going," Mustangs coach Ryan Wood said. "It was a tough shot by Daniel. I couldn't ask any more of the kids."
After Plunkett's 3-pointer in overtime, Marion County kept North Shelby at bay by making seven of 10 free throws in the final minute. Four of them came from Clay Pollard, who finished with 20 points.
Wood says his team's switch to a 2-2-1 press helped corral Daniel, who scored 24 points, and create 23 turnovers.
"(The zone) saved us again," he said.
"They put a lot of pressure on our perimeter guys," Cripe said. "We were lucky to get it to overtime."
Marion County (20-7), which won its second consecutive district title, split the four-game season series with North Shelby.
"There weren't too many secrets out there," he said. "It was going to come down to who played harder and smarter."
The Mustangs will play Tuesday in sectional action at Sturgeon against the winner of the District 9 tournament at Jamestown.