Macks Creek, Mo. – For the first time ever, the Macks Creek Pirates will be headed to the Final Four.

A 74-54 win over the Pilot Grove Tigers this past weekend is sending the Pirates to the state semifinals for the first time in school history.

"The game on Saturday was our best game of the season," Coach Brad Briscoe said.

For the Pilot Grove Tigers, it was the end of the line. For the Pirates, it's a goal reaching fruition.

"We didn't advertise it too much, but this was a goal from the beginning," Coach Brad Briscoe said. "It's been a lifelong goal of mine to reach the Final Four as a coach, but it's the boys' hard work that got us there."

Excitement rushes through the community, as they have the chance to watch their boys take it to the next level. But that excitement is tempered for Coach Briscoe, since the boys' trip means plenty of paper work for the coach.

"It's been awesome," Coach Briscoe said. "But you don't know all of the work that goes on behind the scenes."

Saturday's game against the Pilot Grove Tigers saw the Pirates dominate in the first half, as the Macks Creek defense held Pilot Grove from scoring until there was just 2:40 left in the first quarter.

The Macks Creek boys finished the first quarter with a 20-11 lead.

Pilot Grove managed to bounce back in the second half, as they outscored the Pirates 14-10.

That still wasn't enough, though, as the Pirates clung to a 30-25 lead at the half, s Macks Creek got into foul trouble early on.

If the second quarter was Pilot Grove's, the second half belonged to the Pirates, who scored 44 of their 74 points to defeat Pilot Grove by 20 points.

Macks Creek held a 10-point lead at the end of the third quarter, but the Tigers' final push in the fourth quarter pulled them within 7 points in the fourth quarter.

"They hit us with some pressure," Coach Briscoe said. "I called a timeout to calm us down. We just needed a deep breath."

That strategy paid off, as the Pirates secured their win behind a stellar night from the free throw line, shooting 16 from the line in the fourth quarter for a 74-54 win.

Macks Creek was led to victory by senior Austin Mitchell, who finished the night with a team-high 20 points (3-for-5 from the 3-point line), 17 points from sophomore Matt Hicks and the double-double efforts by junior Cody Eidson (15 points and 12 rebounds) and senior Alec Kinder (14 points, 20 rebounds). Junior Tommie Willis finished with 8 points. Mitchell led the team with three steals, Hicks led with four assists, while Eidson led the team in blocks with five.

Pilot Grove was led by sophomore Mason Schlotzhauer with a game-high 27 points, as he led the Tigers back into the game in the second quarter.

And when you look at this team's efforts this season, it's easy to understand why.

The Pirates have lost just five games this season, while managing to win 25.

Their five losses this season, three of them in tournaments, were all decided by 13 points or less. Two of those losses were to Skyline.

But in nearly all of the Pirates' wins this season, the majority of the games were decided by 10 points or more, and more importantly, the boys are averaging 63 points per game and completing 55 percent of their shots.

Coach Briscoe attributes the team's success to the hard work of his players, noting that it takes a team effort to accomplish this feat.

"Our bench players have been coming up big for us," Coach Briscoe said. "We have more depth than we've ever had before, and all of them have made contributions."

Their stellar play underneath the basket has earned the team 1,124 rebounds this season, or an average of 37.5 rebounds per game.

In short, they're playing so well that they've earned a Final Four appearance.

They're one of the top four teams in the state in Class 1.

Now, all that remains to be seen is if they're good enough to be one of the top two. Or the number one.

And with the full support of their community, which Coach Briscoe described as seeing the whole town in the stands, the boys feel the encouragement to push farther than they ever have.

"Any time you make it that far, there's great support, and that always helps" Coach Briscoe said. " But even our weekday regular season games always draw out big crowds. We have some expectations on us, but the boys have done a good job so far of handling the pressure."

So are Coach Briscoe and the boys nervous before the game on Thursday night?

"I don't feel like we've been that nervous, but more that we're enjoying the process and living in the moment," Coach Briscoe said. "We're going to be prepared, and we're going to be ready."