The People's Tribune

Heartbreaking Loss For Clopton Hawks By Single Point In State Quarterfinal

Hawks Take Down Elsberry In Overtime Of State Sectional

A wild final 15 seconds saw tears, cheers and ultimately heartbreak for the Clopton Hawks as their season ended with a 58-57 loss to Harrisburg in the MSHSAA Class 2 Quarterfinal on Saturday.

With the Hawks trailing by a point in the waning seconds, Clopton senior Mark Frank tried to stop at center court and was called for traveling. As hope seemed to dwindle, Coach Craig Smith called for a timeout and a shaken group of Hawks came to the sideline.

Following the pep talk, on the ensuing in-bound play, fellow senior Jamon Graham stole the ball and broke to the hoop to give the Hawks a 57-56 lead with just over eight seconds to go.

As Clopton players celebrated the change in fortunes, Harrisburg called for timeout to set their own game plan. The Bulldogs used a quick pass to spring star Cade Combs for a break to the net. The son of Head Coach Steve Combs rose to the occasion and dropped in a layup to pull Harrisburg ahead by a point.

Clopton took one more timeout with 3.4 seconds remaining and set up for one last play. The in bound pass went to senior Stephen Talbert, who drove with his head up, looking for options. With time counting down and no pass available, Talbert threw up a desperation half court shot.

The Hawks and the big crowd at Moberly Area Community College watched as the shot went wide and the Bulldogs, not Clopton, stamped their ticket for the MSHSAA Championships this week in Columbia.

The Hawks started the afternoon in terrific fashion, outscoring the Bulldogs 17-8 in the opening quarter.

Graham and Scott Kuntz came off the bench to hit three pointers, Frank scored four and Talbert scored seven points while the defense limited the Bulldogs to scores from just two players and none from Combs.

The Harrisburg junior came alive in the second quarter with a pair of three balls and four of five from the free throw line.

Clopton was dropped in the quarter 21-16, but still carried a four point lead to the locker room.

The Hawks were held to just two baskets from the field in the third quarter, but were six for eight as a team at the line.

The game went to the final quarter tied at 43.

The Hawks were even better from the foul line in the fourth quarter as the game went back and fourth.

Clopton was six for seven from the stripe in the final eight minutes and Landon Hall scored four from the field, but the Hawks fell a point short at the final buzzer and ended their season with a quarterfinal loss for the second consecutive season.

Graham was named the Community State Bank TribCast Player of the Game for his late game heroics and a perfect night from the free throw line (6 for 6) for the Hawks.

Scoring for Clopton: Graham, 15; Hall, 14; Talbert, 13; Kuntz, 8; Frank, 4; Kevin Hammett, 2; Collin Lockard, 1.

Coach Smith noted the loss was going to take time to over.

“We were right there and not able to finish the game how we would have liked. I thought we had two good practices going into their game. They obviously had us scouted and went to a zone later in the first quarter. I think that is where the momentum shifted and we started to do some things that were not us,” he explained. “The kids gave me everything thing they had and that is all I can ask for. I feel for our seniors that it didn’t end with a trip to the Final Four, but this group has been a part of a huge paradigm shift in our program and it is in large part due to them and the kind of kids they are. I appreciate them and their hard work and dedication to Clopton,” he added.

Clopton reached the quarterfinal in another thrilling game against Elsberry in the Sectional on Wednesday.

The Hawks fell behind early, battled back to force overtime, then defeated their conference rival and friends 43-41 at Hannibal High School.

Clopton was nearly shut out in the first quarter of the sectional. Elsberry scored the game’s first 11 points before Stephen Talbert scored with less than a minute left. The game went to the second quarter with the Indians ahead 11-2.

In the second, Clopton’s offense came alive with three point shots from Talbert, Graham and Hall.

Talbert finished the quarter with seven more points and the Hawks came back to trail by just two points at halftime.

Frank added a third quarter trey for Clopton and the Hawks took the lead for the first time in the game. Clopton led 27-26 after three quarters.

The final frame of regulation went back and forth as the teams traded baskets. After 32 minutes of basketball, the teams were knotted at 37 each.

In the extra session, the Hawks scored three times from the field with buckets from Hall, Graham and Lockard while the Indians were limited to four free throws.

While Elsberry converted all four attempts, Clopton controlled the extra session and took home the victory in the opening round of the state tournament.

Talbert and Hall both scored in double figures as Talbert triggered the second quarter comeback and Hall fueled the second half.

The pair shared the Community State Bank TribCast Player of the Game award in the win.

Scoring for Clopton against Elsberry: Hall, 13; Talbert, 12; Lockard, 6; Graham, 5; Frank, 5;  Hammett, 2.

Coach Smith noted that Elsberry did an excellent job of executing their defensive game plan to pack it in and force Clopton to shoot from the outside.

“They controlled the boards with the big guys in the middle and we didn’t do a good job of knocking down the outside shots. We found a way to overcome bad shooting and found a way to get in their zone and get easy shots. The players made adjustments and stuck to the process and found a way to win,” he added.

The Hawks will bid farewell to a large group of seniors as Talbert, Graham, Kuntz, Lockard, Hammett and Frank will all graduate at the end of the year. The team will only return Hall from the starting lineup next season but Coach Smith said there is exciting talent coming up.

Find more from Coach Smith later this week on Facebook and on the Trib’s website. Check out more photo highlights and the archived TribCasts at

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