In a ballgame fitting of a great rivalry in front of a standing room only crowd, the Scott Central Braves held off the No. 2-seed Bell City Cubs 76-71 to punch their ticket to the final.
"Bell City's beat 'em quite a few times so we're tickled to death to get the win," said Scott Central coach Ronnie Cookson. "It was just a great team effort."
Behind D.D. Gillespie's nine points and seven from Drew Thomas, the Braves opened a 23-13 first-quarter lead.
In the second quarter, 6-foot-10, 300-pound post Will Bogan put the Cubs on his broad shoulders. While relentlessly sweeping the boards for putbacks and showing strong inside moves, Bogan accounted for the Cubs' first 12 points to personally lift them to within one at 26-25 early in the quarter.
Bogan rang up a double-double of 18 points -- 14 in the second quarter -- and 13 rebounds in the first half.
Despite sitting for nearly two quarters with foul trouble, the all-stater finished with 29 points and 20 rebounds.
"Bogan played an outstanding ballgame," said Cookson. "I've got to commend him on the way he played. He's tough when he wants to be."
Bogan's final basket of the first half gave the Cubs their first lead of the game at 33-32. Shortly after he went to the bench with his third foul with 2:45 to go in the half and the Braves took advantage.
Gillespie, who scored 17 in the first half, converted two conventional 3-point plays and knocked down two free throws as Scott Central took a 45-37 lead in at halftime.
Bell City's Nick Niemcyzk, with Bogan riding the bench for the majority of the third quarter, kept the Cubs in contention with 10 third-quarter points. Scott Central held a slim 58-56 edge as the third quarter expired.
Two baskets by Bogan recaptured the lead for Bell City at 61-60 early in the fourth quarter, but a fourth foul sent him back to the bench.
Richard Brownlee's six straight points and two free throws by Caleb Johnson pushed the Braves back to a 69-61 advantage with 3:15 left.
"Richard played had two or three good spurts and we needed them," said Cookson.
Bogan returned to score the next seven Bell City points to close the gap to 71-68, but the Braves' Drew Thomas' rebound and putback of a missed free throw proved huge with 1:20 remaining.
The Braves hit 3-of-6 from the line in the closing seconds to hang on to the victory.
Free-throw shooting proved to be a dicey proposition for each team. Scott Central went 19-of-39; Bell City 14-of-26.
Thomas paced Scott Central's scoring with 21 points, Gillespie had 20, Johnson 16 and Brownlee 13.
Behind Bogan's 29, Niemcyzk was the only other Cub in double figures with 15.
The Malden Green Wave turned up the heat in the second half to blow away the No. 4-seed Advance Hornets 71-47.
The Hornets hung around for much of the first half, trailing 27-23 at the half.
Malden's height and quickness prevailed as they exploded out of the break with a 13-0 run. The Green Wave led 53-34 going into the final period.
Malden held a huge 42-22 rebound advantage.
Robert Ison led the Green Wave with 15 points, Alonzo Louis added 12 and Quentin Franks 11.
Alex Steil and Trenton Moses had 11 and 10 points, respectively, for the Hornets.
In a consolation semifinal, the Kelly Hawks routed the Advance junior varsity 60-26.
Spencer Ayers led the Hawks with 22 points and Blake Seabaugh topped Advance with 13.
The Malden/Scott County Central championship game is at 8 p.m. tonight. Advance and Bell City face off for third place at 6:30 p.m. and Oran and Kelly play for fifth place at 5 p.m.