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Cubs finish second

Monday, March 20, 2006

(Photo)
Bell City's William Bogan, Jeff Liggins and Marty Dames sit on the bench.
COLUMBIA -- The Bell City boys basketball team singled out a pair of Jefferson players it wanted to defend in 3-point range during Saturday's Class 1 championship game at Mizzou Arena. Senior Jared Dowis one of them.

Dowis led Jefferson in 3-pointers through the season, hitting 30 more 3s than any other teammate. So it had to pain Bell City coach Brian Brandtner and the Cubs when Dowis hit back-to-back 3-pointers less than a minute apart late in the fourth quarter to push the Eagles ahead for good in a 74-61 decision.

"They penetrated and we helped off, and he hit a couple of big shots," Brandtner said. "He hit the shots when they needed it."

For the game, Dowis hit just three 3-pointers, but there were no two shots bigger than his final two 3s.

"Coach talked to me earlier about having confidence in my shot, don't get down," Dowis said. "Matt [Jenkins] found me open and I knocked them down." The first 3-pointer from Dowis put the Eagles (32-0) up 61-57 with 3:10 remaining. Dowis' second 3-pointer put the Eagles up 64-59 with 2:08 remaining.

The Cubs (28-5) missed a layup on the other end on their next possession, and the fouling began. Jefferson missed just two of 12 free throws over the final 1:45 to stay in front.

Overall, the Eagles hit 30 of 40 free throws.

"They seemed to make them all, and we seemed to miss them all," Brandtner said.

Bell City hit 28 of 43 free throws, as both teams were in foul trouble throughout the game.

The Cubs and the Eagles each had two players foul out and had two other players with four fouls.

Foul trouble seemed to affect the Cubs more, though, as Thursday's semifinal star Jeff Liggins played just 23 minutes. Liggins had 23 points in the semifinal win with second-leading scorer Nick Niemczyk struggling from the floor. The struggles continued for Niemczyk on Saturday, as the sophomore hit just one of 18 shots. Niemczyk was 3-for-32 in the two final four games.

"He didn't hit shots tonight, but you have to come through that," Brandtner said. "Shooting's weird. It's not something in the huddle you can work on. "Tonight, I thought foul trouble hurt us from having guys step up when Nick wasn't hitting."

Despite the shooting struggles -- Bell City shot just 32 percent from the field -- the Cubs grabbed their largest lead at 57-54 on a pair of free throws from Niemczyk with 4:15 left in the game.

Jefferson outscored the Cubs 23-7 the rest of the way. Part of Bell City's problems over the final half of the fourth was rebounding. Despite a 42-32 rebounding edge, the Cubs were outrebounded in the second half.

"I just told them, the last 4 or 5 minutes, if we could find a way to keep them off the boards, something good would happen," Jefferson coach Tim Jermain said.

When the Cubs had chances to come back late, turnovers hampered their efforts. Bell City finished with 22 turnovers with every starter finishing with at least three turnovers. Reserve guard Kerry Wayne Lasters was the only Cubs player to have a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, with one assist to no turnovers.

Bell City had to expend much of its energy in the opening half digging out of a double-digit hole. Jefferson used a 15-0 run in the second quarter to open a 31-19 lead with 3:08 left in the first half. The Cubs had fought back to 36

-30 by halftime, but finished the half hitting just 11 of 19 free throws.

Four of Bell City's five starters had at least two fouls at the half.

Jenkins led the Eagles with 18 points. Dowis had 15 and Kody Schieber added 11. Reserve center Todd Mattson had 12 points, 10 coming at the free throw line.

Bell City's 6-10 junior Will Bogan finished with a game-high 21 points and 17 rebounds. Bogan was 7-for-9 from the field and 7-for-12 from the line before fouling out late.

Liggins, who also fouled out in the final minute, added 13 points. Phillip Gross had 10 points and nine rebounds.

The Cubs had four seniors among their eight-man rotation, but are expected to return three starters. This was the third straight final four appearance for Bell City's seniors.

"Not winning, second place doesn't make you feel good," Brandtner said. "Our goal was one thing, to win it all."