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By RICK EYMER
Associated Press

St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen blocks the puck hit by San Jose Sharks' Patrick Marleau during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/George Nikitin)

St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen blocks the puck hit by San Jose Sharks’ Patrick Marleau during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/George Nikitin)

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Joe Thornton figured he would just toss the puck into a dangerous area and trust that someone would be there.

Brent Burns scored a power-play goal 4:22 into overtime after Thornton assisted on San Jose’s tying tally, and the Sharks rallied past the St. Louis Blues 3-2 Saturday night for their season-best fifth straight victory.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored with 21 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game for the Sharks. Thornton dug the puck out of the corner before delivering the pass.

“It was a good all-around game with two good teams going at it,” Thornton said. “We waited for the last minute to score in regulation and we waited until the last minute to score in overtime. I just figured somebody was going to be there.”

Vlasic was the recipient of the pass and converted his fourth of the season.

“Smart man,” Vlasic said of Thornton. “There’s a lot of ice available and with Jumbo making that pass, he’s not going to miss. It took a lot against a good defensive team. We found a way to get a late goal, but we had a lot of opportunities before that. It’s nice to get the win the way we did.”

Steve Ott scored his first goal in 10 months late in the second period to put the Blues ahead.

“The most disappointing part of it is team-wise we played extremely well and we didn’t get the job done,” Ott said. “Collectively we made some mistakes and unfortunately those mistakes happened late in the game and in overtime.”

Patrick Berglund also scored for the Blues, who endured their second straight disappointing defeat. St. Louis lost 6-4 to the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings on Thursday after holding a 3-0 lead.

“We’re an upper-echelon team and we have to show we can close out games,” Ott said. “San Jose, Los Angeles, those are the cream of the crop and those are the teams we want to beat.”

Andrew Desjardins had a goal for the Sharks, and Antti Niemi made 18 saves.

Jake Allen stopped 27 shots for the Blues.

Ott scored his first goal with the Blues in his 55th game. He had played 59 games since scoring against the Edmonton Oilers as a member of the Buffalo Sabres on Feb. 3.

Desjardins scored midway through the second period after taking a pass from Justin Braun off the boards on Allen’s stick side and getting the puck to bounce off the goalie’s body from an extreme angle.

“I would have liked to have the first one back,” Allen said. “That was an unacceptable goal.”

Berglund backhanded a rebound off Niemi’s pads to tie it with 5:31 remaining in the second. Alex Pietrangelo ripped a shot from the blue line to set up Berglund.

Maxim Lapierre led Ott with a nice pass and he finished the 1-on-1 against Niemi.

Burns acknowledged he shot the game-winner as hard as he could.

“He has a shot, doesn’t he?” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “He put himself in a good position, created a shooting lane. The pass was in his wheelhouse; he just pounded away at it. It’s hard to stop a shot that fast and quick.”

By JAKE KREINBERG
Associated Press

Missouri players, including guard Wes Clark, left, react after Illinois guard Rayvonte Rice, background far right,  made the game-winning three-point shot as time expired during the Braggin' Rights basketball game between Missouri and Illinois in St. Louis, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Chris Lee )

Missouri players, including guard Wes Clark, left, react after Illinois guard Rayvonte Rice, background far right, made the game-winning three-point shot as time expired during the Braggin’ Rights basketball game between Missouri and Illinois in St. Louis, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Chris Lee )

ST. LOUIS (AP) — During a timeout with 17.8 seconds remaining in a tie game on Saturday, Missouri coach Kim Anderson figured Illinois would attempt to find guard Rayvonte Rice for the final shot.

Rice did end up with the ball as the clock wound down, dribbling around behind the 3-point line, guarded by Tigers Keith Shamburger and Johnathan Williams III. Unable to drive forward, Rice stepped back for a fade-away attempt that converted at the buzzer for a 62-59 win.

While Rice fell backward in joy, mobbed by teammates at mid-court, Missouri’s players doubled over in shock.

“I think we covered him; he made a great shot,” Anderson said. “You’ve got to give him credit. The thing is you can’t put yourself in that position. We missed some rebounds coming down the stretch. We had some wasted possessions, and against good teams, you can’t afford to do that.”

Wesley Clark ended a scoring drought of 2:57 for Missouri (5-6) with a jumper from the key that tied the game for the 10th time before the timeout. After coming off the bench for the past four games, the sophomore guard started in place of Namon Wright, who was sick, and finished with 11 points.

Williams III led the Tigers for the fifth consecutive game in scoring with 15 points and added eight rebounds.

After losing its first four games against opponents in major conferences, including a 74-58 setback against Xavier on Dec. 13 in which it faded in the second half, Missouri hung with Illinois (9-3) the entire game.

The Tigers never trailed by more than six while their biggest lead was three.

Clark said the game, played in front of a split audience in St. Louis, helped the team’s confidence.

“I just think we’ve grown more as a team,” he said. “Instead of things being a little out of whack, we came together for each other.”

Anderson said he saw some promising signs from a team that plays five freshmen.

“I learned something today about this group,” he said. “I don’t want to be a program where we’re happy to lose. That’s not what this is. But I did watch some guys grow up and show what they can do. Now we’ve got to do it on a regular basis.”

It was just the eighth time in 34 games in the series with neither team ranked.

TIP-INS

Illinois: The Fighting Illini prevailed despite going just 4 for 18 from 3-point range. Ahmad Starks topped double figures for the first time in nine games, though he was just 1 for 7 on 3-pointers. He entered averaging 7.3 points.

Missouri: Shamburger scored all five of his points in the final 1:36 of the first half, including two free throws after a technical foul. He’s now 29 for 32 at the line this season.

IN THE HOUSE

Usually the crowd is evenly split, half-clad in orange and the other half in gold. This year it was closer to 60-40 Illinois with a paid attendance of 20,079, including baseball Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon.

Wesley Clark admitted Missouri might have committed seven turnovers in the first 10 1/2 minutes because of noise. The Tigers finished with 14 for the game after settling down.

“I don’t know who wouldn’t come out nervous,” Clark said.

UP NEXT

Illinois hosts Kennesaw State next Saturday.

Missouri faces Oklahoma State in Kansas City Dec. 30.

By KURT VOIGT
AP Sports Writer

Arkansas's Manuale Watkins (21) takes the ball away from Southeast Missouri State's Josh Langford (0) in first half of an NCAA college basketball game in North Little Rock, Ark., Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

Arkansas’s Manuale Watkins (21) takes the ball away from Southeast Missouri State’s Josh Langford (0) in first half of an NCAA college basketball game in North Little Rock, Ark., Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Michael Qualls finally had enough of his lack of high-flying dunks recently for Arkansas.

The explosive Razorbacks guard emphatically ended a four-game dunkless streak, doing so while scoring all 15 of his points in the second half of an 84-67 win over Southeast Missouri State on Saturday night.

Qualls, known for his game-winning putback dunk against Kentucky last season among his other powerful highlights, hadn’t dunked since a win over North Texas on Nov. 28. He also had only six points in Arkansas’ last game, but the junior’s one-handed finish in the second half ignited the Razorbacks (8-2) – providing the perfect complement to Bobby Portis’ 24 points.

“I just want to make (the national highlights) every night,” Qualls joked, to which Portis quickly added, “I think he’s used to it by now.”

Portis matched his season high in points while adding nine rebounds in a return to his native central Arkansas. The 6-foot-11 sophomore, from neighboring Little Rock, was 9 of 14 from the field while matching a 24-point effort in a season-opening win over Alabama State.

Arkansas improved to 8-2 to start the season for a second straight year, shooting an even 50 percent (28 of 56) from the field and hitting 7 of 19 3-pointers. It was also the second straight win after back-to-back road losses at Iowa State and Clemson for the Razorbacks.

Jarekious Bradley led the Redhawks (5-6) with 17 points, despite shooting 1 of 9 on 3-pointers, while Antonius Cleveland added 13 and Nino Johnson 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Southeast Missouri State trailed by only seven points midway through the second half after falling behind by as many as 19 early in the half, but it was unable to keep up with the depth of Arkansas – which scored 24 points off 17 turnovers.

The Redhawks are now 1-19 against current Southeastern Conference members, with their lone win a 28-21 victory over Arkansas in the 1924-25 season.

“I thought they wore us down,” Southeast Missouri State coach Dickey Nutt said. “They don’t have many weaknesses at all.”

After trailing by as many as 19 points early in the second half, the Redhawks cut Arkansas’ lead to 49-42 with a 14-2 run – highlighted by a pair of dunks by Johnson.

The Redhawks were still within nine points at 53-44 before Alandise Harris ignited the Verizon Arena crowd with a one-handed putback dunk of Manuale Watkins’ 3-point miss. Ky Madden followed with a steal and a pair of free throws, and the Razorbacks quickly extended their lead by to 59-44 after a layup by North Little Rock native Anton Beard.

Southeast Missouri State closed within 10 points once more at 59-49, but Qualls scored eight straight points at one point for Arkansas as the Razorbacks went on a 12-2 run to take a 71-51 lead and put the game out of reach.

Qualls had all 15 of his points in the second half, including his powerful dunk while being fouled on the break to put Arkansas up 79-57. It came off an assist from Beard and felt long overdue for the junior.

“You can really just feel the atmosphere changes (after a Qualls’ dunk) from the standpoint of the attack mode we talk about,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “And then to see him finish off one with an and-one just shows you.”

Qualls was 8 of 9 on free throws, while Bell led the outside shooting attack by hitting 3 of 6 3-pointers.

HOMETOWN CROWD

Portis was one of three players from central Arkansas making their return home for the Razorbacks annual game in North Little Rock’s Verizon Arena. Harris, also from Little Rock, had nine points and five rebounds, while Beard added six points.

TIP-INS

Southeast Missouri State coach Dickey Nutt previously coached at Arkansas State from 1995-2008, and his brother Houston Nutt is a former football coach for the Razorbacks.

UP NEXT

Southeast Missouri State faces a second straight Southeastern Conference opponent when it takes on Mississippi on Monday.

After a week off for finals, Arkansas plays its second game in three days when it hosts Milwaukee on Monday night.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — Karrington Ward scored 18 points and led his team with nine rebounds as Eastern Michigan held on to beat Missouri State 77-65 on Saturday.

Ward did it with 7-of-13 shooting from the field overall. Raven Lee added 14 points and four assists for the Eagles (9-2). Mike Talley had 10 points and Anali Okoloji had nine.

Eastern Michigan pulled ahead after a close first period on an 11-1 run highlighted by 3-pointers by Ward and Okoloji. The Eagles led 31-19 at halftime.

Missouri State battled back in the second half to trail by six, 55-49, on a Gavin Thurman 3 with 8:09 to play. But the Eagles answered with an 11-6 run to open the gap once again and lead 66-55 with 3:58 remaining and held on for the win.

Marcus Marshall scored 21 points and had six rebounds for the Bears (5-6).

1076004_1399192303631154_1995887383_nThe Cabool Bulldogs traveled to take on the Dora Falcons Friday night, December 19, in their second to last game before the Christmas Holiday break.

The voice of the Bulldogs Brad McNew has your Basketball Scoreboard update:

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Once again the final score of the game was 71-68 with the Bulldogs falling to the win of the Dora Falcons.

Willow Springs Municipal Golf Course

OPO Filling Up

Don’t be left out for the Jan 1 OPO Golf Tournament. It began in 1981 and is still running strong today. Call 469-1214 and leave a message to reserve your spot. Carts are limited and 2 are already reserved so call ASAP. The tournament will begin a 12 noon and ham and beans and cornbread lunch will be served after the golf. Sharon Petrus and family and many volunteers are helping to provide a great lunch and yummy desserts.

Record Sponsorship

We have set a new record for sponsors for this tournament that directly benefits the golf course. G & W Foods is again our corporate sponsor for this event. Platinum sponsors are FMC Transport, Ferguson Drug, Coulter’s Heating and Cooling, 11 Point Rural Fire Dept., Casey’s General Store and Peterbilt. Gold Sponsors are O’Reilly’s, Bailey Chevrolet, Prewitt’s Collision, Shelter Insurance, Willow Health Care, Randy’s Auto Repair, and Star Barks Grooming and Pet Spa. Silver sponsors are Brody’s Barber Shop, Town and Country Super Market, Custom Form LLC, Stuart U-Lock U-Store, Lee’s Tire, Vintage Floral, Baker Realty, Friga Tire, H & R Block, Mr G’s Liquor Store, and the Willow Tree CafĂ©. Our tremendous sponsors make this tournament a great financial success. Thanks to all of you.

Semi Retirement for Tom Benyo

After 13 years at Willow Springs and 7 at Thayer in the golf business I am scaling back my hours and going part-time. I have been fortunate to have had the two best jobs anyone could ask for in my career. After 25 years of teaching and coaching and now 20 in the golfing industry I will be working 20 hours a week as I ease into the sunset. Dave Guyll will be taking over at the golf course and is excited to keep the same quality conditions that we have achieved over the past years. Dave has been my assistant for the past two years and is ready for the challenge. Please give him the same support that I have enjoyed over the past 13 years.

(West Plains) – West Plains High School Senior, Shane York, has been named to the 2014 Boys Soccer Academic All-State Team.

York is one of just 24 players from around the state to be recognized.

By GREG BEACHAM
AP Hockey Writer

St. Louis Blues center David Backes, left, celebrates after scoring against Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

St. Louis Blues center David Backes, left, celebrates after scoring against Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Shortly after the Los Angeles Kings gave up their eighth consecutive goal to St. Louis over the last two games, the defending Stanley Cup champions finally gathered themselves and answered back.

Martin Brodeur and the Blues were overwhelmed by the response.

Anze Kopitar had a career-high five points, Jake Muzzin scored the tiebreaking power-play goal with 11:02 to play, and the Kings rallied from an early three-goal deficit for a 6-4 victory Thursday night.

“Some teams would probably pack it in after the 3-0 (deficit), but not this team,” said Kopitar, who had a goal and four assists. “We have a lot of character. We have a lot of guys that care about each other and like playing for each other.”

Marian Gaborik had two goals and an assist, while Jeff Carter had a goal and three assists as the champs avenged a 5-2 loss in St. Louis on Tuesday with just their second win in seven games.

The Kings limped home from a 1-3-1 road trip and played an ugly first period – but just as they’ve done in the last three postseasons, they remained masters of raising their game when absolutely necessary.

“There was no question we thought we could come back,” Gaborik said. “We thought we had a chance always. It feels like the playoffs – two big, heavy-duty teams playing each other like that.”

Dwight King also scored from mid-ice with 7:54 left on a bizarre bounce over Brodeur, capping a rough third start for St. Louis by the NHL’s career victories leader.

David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin and Kevin Shattenkirk scored in a 2:48 span of the first period for the Blues, whose five-game winning streak ended. Jori Lehtera also scored for St. Louis, which hadn’t allowed more than four goals in a game this season.

“We were careless at times, and that’s a big part of it,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We did a really poor job of managing the puck as the game went on, so we turned it into a track meet.”

After Carter tied it with his first goal in 14 games, Muzzin put the Kings ahead with a wicked wrist shot just underneath Brodeur’s crossbar. King then padded the lead with a dump-in shot that inexplicably leaped over Brodeur’s shoulder.

“I knew it was going to be a bad bounce, so I wanted to cover the low part of the net,” Brodeur said. “But I didn’t expect that thing to go right over my head. It was almost like a lacrosse ball. It kind of gained speed on the second bounce. It never happened to me before.”

Brodeur returned to St. Louis’ net for the first time since Dec. 8, facing Jonathan Quick in a matchup of two goalies with a combined five Stanley Cup championships, six Jennings Trophies, four Vezina Trophies, three Olympic medals, a Conn Smythe Trophy and 158 NHL playoff victories.

Brodeur and Quick both were shredded, yet each also made a handful of highlight-reel saves in the third period of a wide-open game.

Quick made 24 saves, and Brodeur stopped 31 shots.

St. Louis swiftly seized a 3-0 lead starting with Backes’ adroit deflection on a power play for his eighth goal.

“It was good and bad to get that lead,” Brodeur said. “I think when you come in from a long road trip like the Kings did, they took their medicine. But then they really picked up their game, played physical and created a lot of offense.”

Kopitar scored just his second goal in 15 games on a setup from Gaborik, who tied it later in the second period with his second power-play rebound goal – his fifth goal in three games.

St. Louis went back ahead just 36 seconds later when Lehtera flipped a soft backhand past Quick for just his first goal in 15 games since Nov. 15.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — New Missouri State coach Dave Steckel has hired four assistant coaches, including offensive coordinator Mario Verduzco and defensive coordinator Marcus Yokeley.

Steckel was hired Sunday to his first head coaching job after 14 years under Missouri’s Gary Pinkel. He also added former Missouri player Kenji Jackson (safeties) and Chris Morton (defensive line), and retained Sean Coughlin (offensive line) from former coach Terry Allen’s staff.

Verduzco had been co-offensive coordinator at Northern Iowa, which won six Missouri Valley titles during his 14 seasons.

Yokeley was defensive line coach at Lindenwood and is a former Missouri graduate assistant.

The assistants were announced on Wednesday.

By HERBIE TEOPE
Associated Press

Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali (91) celebrates after sacking Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) during the second half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali (91) celebrates after sacking Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) during the second half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs’ hopes for a postseason berth go through a daunting matchup at the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Kansas City (8-6) hasn’t allowed a 300-yard passer and has allowed just two touchdowns rushing on the season.

But the Chiefs’ defense hasn’t faced an offense such as the Steelers (9-5), who are the NFL’s top-ranked group.

“They’re a very balanced offense,” Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith said. “They like to run and pass the ball. Great back, great receivers and a tremendous quarterback back there who can make all the throws, can take hits and make the throws. This is by far our biggest test of the year.”

The Steelers present the Chiefs a big challenge when it comes to defending quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown.

Roethlisberger, who is 3-1 against the Chiefs, ranks second in league in yards passing (4,415) and sixth in touchdowns (29).

The 11th-year pro has been on a roll in the past eight games with 2,822 yards passing (352.8 per game) with 21 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Roethlisberger’s top option is Brown, who leads the NFL in yards receiving (1,498) and receptions (115).

Brown’s 115 catches established a team record, and his 11 touchdowns rank third in the league.

Covering the dynamic fifth-year pro takes a team-wide effort.

“Not one guy can stop Antonio Brown,” Smith said. “It’s going to take all 11 (defenders). Pass rushers, great technique and we’re going to have to bring everything we got because those guys are playing at a very high level.”

Chiefs cornerback Jamell Fleming agreed, adding he understands what must be done in the team’s press-man scheme if he’s locked up against Brown.

“Just win my one-on-one matchup,” Fleming said. “That’s my mindset, and being aggressive with him. He’s not the biggest guy, so you want to be aggressive with him.”

Then there is Bell, an emerging star the Chiefs must account for out of the backfield.

While Kansas City held the Oakland Raiders to 79 yards rushing in Week 15, the Chiefs were hurt in Weeks 11 to 14 with a total of 738 yards rushing allowed.

Bell ranks second in the league in rushing with 1,278 yards and the former Michigan State star is a good receiver out of the backfield with 76 catches for 765 yards.

Bell’s 2,043 yards from scrimmage rank second in the NFL and set a single-season team record.

Bell has the admiration from a fellow Spartans alum on the Chiefs, who will be on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage attempting to keep Bell in check.

“He’s a Michigan State guy,” Chiefs defensive end Kevin Vickerson said. “I know how he’s built coming from a program like that. He’s a bell cow. He’s used to that pounding and gets better through the course of the game toward the end. We just got to stay pounding him.”

Pittsburgh ranks sixth in the league in scoring (27.8 points per game).

The Chiefs’ approach against the Steelers appears to be one of containment with an understanding of the difficulties to completely shut down elite players.

“A great offense is going to score eventually, but it’s how fast can they score,” Chiefs safety Kurt Coleman said. “If we can make them run the clock out and give our offense the ball, we got to be able to create a turnover. I think that’s going to be the name of the game: Who can control the line of scrimmage, who can limit the big plays, and then who can get the most turnovers?”