BELL CITY - Sophomore Dominitrix Johnson led the energized Bell City Cubs (10-3) Friday night as they defeated the Richland Rebels (5-5) in overtime, 50-47.
During the all-Stoddard County match up, Johnson and fellow sophomore Zak McIntyre combined for nine of the Cubs' 11 points in the extra frame.
Richland had several chances throughout the game to put away Bell City and even had two shots with less than eight seconds left as Rebels star Sherome Cole missed two key trey attempts with time winding down.
"We beat the district champs tonight," said Bell City's Coach David Heeb. "Until somebody beats them in February or March they will be the defending champions. Coach Lincoln does possibly the best job of anybody in our district at getting his boys ready to play."
"They came in here with a great game plan and I think that we are very fortunate to beat a very good Richland Rebel squad tonight."
Richland's head coach Jimmy Lincoln had quite a different outlook on the contest: "We lost this basketball game because we didn't rebound and we didn't have people hit free throws. It's pretty sad that they can put a sophomore from the jayvee game in the game and he can hit two free throws late in the ballgame (McIntyre), when we have seniors going to the free throw line and hope to God they make one out of two. It's ridiculous.
"If they don't understand the fundamentals of the game then they are never going to be successful. We don't have leadership right now to be able to do it. Sean Gibson is gone, B.J. Booker is gone and Kevin Wright is gone. All of them are gone."
"They are going to have to step up and until they do, we are not going to win. When we walked in this place we took the crowd out of it, we did everything we had to do to win the ballgame. They don't know how to win yet."
Richland opened up the fourth quarter with Marcus Redmond and Josh McMullen on the free throw line. Both hit their respective stripers to give the Rebels a six point lead at 31-25. This was the biggest lead Richland would hold in the game.
Bell City continued to wear out the Rebels, but the Cubs would get into foul trouble and would lose senior Carl Hadly and junior Kenyon Wright due to both players fouling out. Johnson received his third foul with 1:31 left in the final frame as he put Sherome Cole on the line.
Cole could only get the second of the free throws to go down and he allowed Bell City to stay within two at 36-34.
Johnson would more than redeem his own foul later in the quarter as he, not only saved a ball from going into the back court, but turned around and hit a triple from the top of the key with 3.4 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 39.
After a timeout by Richland, Sherome Cole received the ball and drove the length of the court. He put up an off-balanced attempt from the free throw line as time expired. Cole's shot would go off the side of the rim. Cole only hit three field goals all night along with two three pointers. Thirteen of his game-high 22 came from the charity stripe.
It was a battle of point guards in the extra quarter as Johnson would post five in the frame including the first bucket and the winning basket of the game.
Johnson's winning basket came, after a cross-over to open the lane, on an open lane lay up.
With 21.1 left in the overtime period Scott McGarity went to the line for Richland with a chance to tie the game, but McGarity could only hit the back end of two free throws.
After another Rebel timeout, McIntyre was quickly fouled and sent to the charity stripe. The sophomore hit both free throws to ice the game for Bell City at 50-47.
One of the major mental challenges that the Cubs overcame in this game was not having their junior leader Eric Henry.
Henry, who did not play in Bell City's win over Cape Central last week for fifth place in the U-High Tournament and who had limited playing time against Scott County Central the night before, dressed out for the game, but did not participate. He is not expected back until the Stoddard County Tournament.
"Eric is a fine player and good young man and it is really going to help us when he gets back, but until then we are going to need other players to step up and to this point they have," said Coach Heeb. "Right now we are in a good groove and if we can get him healthy, and get everyone to playing well together I think we are going to be in good shape."
"Eric Henry is one of the best players in Southeast Missouri," noted Coach Lincoln. "If we can't beat (Bell City) without Eric Henry, I don't know who we can beat."
Free throws were obviously a major part of this match up as well as the Rebels were 18-27 (66.7%) while Bell City shot 9-21 (42.9%) from the line.
"Our free throw shooting was terrible," added Coach Lincoln. "They have sophomores nailing big ones at the end of the game and we have seniors that are lucky to go 1 for 2. That's terrible."
"I think we were trying to beat them in missed free throws tonight," said Coach Heeb. "We told our players yesterday that Richland would probably get to the foul line more times than we would because Sherome (Cole) is such a good penetrator. I think our advantage on the boards picked up some of the slack of our poor free throw shooting."
Bell City collected 28 rebounds, over double the amount the Rebels had as a team on the night.
On Tuesday night the Cubs will travel to Puxico to fight with the Indians while Richland will host Gideon's Bulldogs.