The Mark Twain boys basketball team was within striking distance all night but fell 58-46 to North Callaway on Tuesday.
Grant Peters, Mark Twain’s 6-foot-7 center, wants to be the guy other teams target.
North Callaway was more than happy to oblige Tuesday night.
Peters was double- and triple-teamed by the Thunderbirds every time he touched the ball. Hands were swarming him all night long and he was body-checked in a hard-hitting Eastern Missouri Conference contest.
“It hurts to have them slapping on you, but I have always wanted to be the target for my team,” Peters said. “I just play hard and do the best I can. And if they are triple-teaming me, I will just pass to my teammates.”
Peters led Mark Twain (8-15, 3-6 EMO) with 21 points, but the senior and his fellow Tigers faltered in the fourth quarter of a 58-46 home loss to their conference rivals.
North Callaway (13-11, 8-2) outscored the hosts 23-13 in the final period to secure the win.
It was the ninth straight loss for the Tigers. During the skid, Mark Twain has been competitive in seven of the nine games only to be outpaced in the final stages.
“We have been close, so it has been disappointing,” said Mark Twain coach Cody McCann.
Mark Twain got off to a quick start, with Peters jamming home a pair of layups for the Tigers at the start of the first quarter. But paced by hot shooting by Tulley Thomsen, who poured in nine points in the opening stanza, North Callaway built a 20-13 lead.
Thomsen led all scorers with 30 points on the night.
Mark Twain came back to tie the game at 26 with 3:05 left in the first half, but the Tigers then went cold from the field and trailed 30-26 at the intermission.
The real intense body checking and pushing started at the beginning of the third quarter and continued all half with the teams amassing 27 combined second-half fouls.
The intensity of North Callaway's effort against Peters only increased in the third. As Peters was being shoved by Dawson Wright, Peters twisted and made contact with Wright, prompting a rare double-foul call.
“He was pushing me and I turned around and may have got my elbow in there. I wasn’t trying to do it. Those things just happen,” Peters said.
Mark Twain entered the fourth quarter trailing 35-33 yet with a clear opportunity to end its losing streak.
The Tigers hit a wall.
North Callaway seemingly could not miss a shot.
North Callaway coach Kevin O’Neal mentioned his team came in expecting a tough, physical game with Mark Twain. He added his players executed when it mattered most.
“We knew coming in here that this was going to be a physical game. We had to match their physicality,” O'Neal said. “That Peters, he is a load. It was nothing dirty tonight…just two teams with a lot to play for at this time of year. Both teams played really hard.”
The Thunderbirds coach added that in the fourth quarter, his team played nearly flawless to get the win.
“I like the way we came out and executed in the fourth quarter,” O’Neal said.
For McCann, watching his Tigers crumble in the fourth quarter was tough, particularly because he thought his squad played an aggressive game overall.
“We just let the game slip out of our hands,” the Tigers coach said. “I felt good where we were at the end of the first half, and we battled back in the third quarter. We were getting the shots we wanted, but then the wheels just fell off.”
Mark Twain closes out the regular season on Friday night at home against Community.