There are names that have attained four-letter-word status in certain communities.
Don Denkinger in St. Louis. Brett Favre in Chicago. Bill Buckner and Aaron Boone in Boston.
Kieffer McCarron’s name might have achieved such infamy in St. Elmo Saturday after what he did to the Eagles in the championship of the St. Elmo Holiday Tournament.
The Altamont guard was simply spectacular in crushing the host team’s championship aspirations, as he scored 33 points on 9-for-10 shooting from the field in the Indians’ 74-60 victory.
‘He single-handily beat us, I’ll honestly tell you that,’ St. Elmo coach Greg Feezel said.
The 6-foot junior with an unusual name and an equally unique knack for putting the ball in the hole capped an MVP performance with the highest-ever championship game scoring output in the tournament’s 48-year history.
But it wasn’t just the frequency in which McCarron made shots that stood out – it was the timing of those shots.
McCarron scored the final 12 points of a 15-4 Altamont run to close the first half, capping the run with a 3-pointer just before the buzzer that gave the Indians a commanding 34-19 lead heading into the locker room.
St. Elmo put together a valiant comeback attempt in the second half, but every time the Eagles got within striking distance, McCarron had an answer.
The Eagles went on a 12-2 run late in the third, as Wade Nevergall nailed a pair of 3-pointers and Colton Booher twice went the length of the floor to score off defensive rebounds, the first of which resulted in a 3-point play.
But after Nevergall’s second trifecta cut the Indians’ lead to 46-42 with less than a minute to go in the third, McCarron responded with a momentum-changing dagger.
Ironically, it came after a McCarron missed shot. After McCarron missed the second of a pair of free throws attempts, teammate Devin Frailey was there for the offensive rebound, and McCarron gave Altamont a four-point possession by nailing a 3-pointer seconds later.
St. Elmo again cut the Indians lead to just four early in the fourth quarter, but McCarron responded with a 3-pointer that gave the Indians the momentum for good. The Eagles were unable to get any closer the rest of the way, as Altamont pulled away down the stretch with a game-closing 19-9 run.
‘Kieffer can get as hot as anybody on the team,’ Altamont coach Doug Hill said. ‘He’s got the green light, and he knows it. And when he makes it, it’s even better.’
McCarron set the pace for a new-look, freewheeling Indians attack. St. Elmo emerged from a first-half offensive funk by posting 41 points in the game’s final 16 minutes, but the Indians never once considered going the conservative route to preserve their lead.
‘In the past, we were slowing it down, running a low-post offense,’ Hill said. ‘This year, we’re going to shoot them from anywhere on the floor – that’s just a fact.’
Particularly from 3-point range, as the Indians made 9 of 23 shot from beyond the arc. Some of the shots seemed to be ill-advised… until they went in.
‘I don’t mind as long as they keep producing,’ said Hill of his team’s brash offensive style. ‘As it turns out, if a couple of those kids aren’t taking those shots, and they don’t go in, maybe we don’t pull this out.’
Ultimately, a dismal offensive performance by the Eagles in the first half was too much for the host team to overcome. The Eagles made just 2 of their first 16 from the field.
‘We just needed to play the first half like we did the second half,’ Feezel said. ‘It was just a cold start, and what are you gonna do? Call a timeout? They weren’t tired and they weren’t rattled. We just couldn’t make a shot.’
Though the Eagles righted the ship offensively in the second half, Feezel wasn’t enamored with his team’s defensive effort from the second quarter on.
‘We have a way of making people score,’ Feezel said. ‘I don’t know why, but we do. Maybe we’ll correct it. If we don’t, we’re going to have some more losses.
‘Altamont didn’t score like this last night against South Central. And then they come out here and just ring it up on us. It’s kinda frustrating.’
Booher and Nevergall capped first-team all-tournament performances with 18 and 14 points, respectively. Booher added 11 rebounds, while Nevergall had seven, but it wasn’t enough to top the undefeated Indians (7-0), who are looking like an NTC title contender in what should be a wide-open league race.
‘You might have two losses and win it this year, I don’t know,’ Feezel said. ‘But right now Altamont’s looking pretty good.’
Altamont 11 23 16 24 – 74
St. Elmo 6 13 25 16 – 60
St. Elmo scoring – Nevergall 5-13 0-0 14, Cameron 1-9 3-5 5, Hill 2-3 1-4 5, Asher 0-3 0-0 0, Fritcher 3-5 2-2 8, Waterman 3-6 2-4 8, Morrison 1-1 0-0 2, Booher 6-13 4-7 18. Totals 21-53 12-24 60.