Jefferson has Bell City's number

Sunday, March 18, 2007
Tears flowed down Bell City senior Will Bogan's face after the Cubs lost 66-65 to Jefferson on Saturday in theMSHSAA Class 1 state championship game at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo. The Cubs also had lost in the title game to Jefferson last year.
L.G. Patterson
Special tothe Southeast Missourian

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Superman had kryponite. Bell City has Jefferson.

For the third straight year, the Bell City boys basketball team fell to Jefferson in the state final four. This time, it was a 66-65 loss Saturday in the Class 1 championship game at Mizzou Arena.

This was the second straight championship loss to Jefferson (31-1) for the Cubs. Bell City (28-5) fell to the Eagles in the semifinals in 2005.

"I don't believe in superstions," Bell City second-year coach Brian Brandntner said. "They had a couple kids step up and hit some big shots. Their bench had 27 points. They executed and we didn't at times."

Bell City held a slim lead with 3 minutes to play last year before bowing out by 13.

This time around, the Cubs led 58-53 with 2:19 remaining. The Cubs had two straight turnovers, and Jefferson senior Phil Henry put the Eagles on top for good with a 3-pointer with 1:15 remaining. The shot hit the front of the rim and the backboard before falling in. Henry attempted only three shots all game and hit two.

"I knew we needed a big shot at the end," Henry said. "I was open, and I knew we needed something there.

"I wasn't thinking very good thoughts," he added of the shot. "I thought it was off."

Following the 3-pointer, Bell City was forced to foul. Jefferson hit all six of its free throws in the final minute to build a 66-63 lead.

Nick Niemczyk's 3-point attempt fell short in the final seconds to seal Bell City?s fate.

Jefferson hit 10 of 11 free throws in the fourth quarter, making its last 10 consecutively. Over a stretch in the second half Jefferson hit 15 of 17, and the Eagles hit 22 of 30 after bringing 62 percent success rate into the game.

"A lot of their free throws hit a lot of rim, or when they were in the air, they looked bad," Brandtner said. "They went in. They made them and we didn't. When you come down and have a one-point deficit at the end, you have to look at free throws."

Five different Jefferson players went 2-for-2 from the line down the stretch, and all nine Eagles players who saw the floor hit at least one free throw. Jefferson center Doug Archer was the lone player to miss more than one.

"It was unbelievable," Jefferson senior Adam Henry. "I still can't believe it. It got pretty rough down the stretch, but we came together as a team.?

The Eagles used a lot of substitutions throughout the game, trying to wear out the Cubs. Jefferson had eight different players score in the first half, and had just one player attempt more than three first-half shots

For the game, no Jefferson player attempted more than six shots.

Adam Henry led the Eagles with 15 points and Archer had 12. Four other players scored seven or more points.

"One of the things we talked about is we had to be a better team," Jefferson coach Tim Germain said. "We may not be better players but be a better team."

Jefferson came into this year's championship a completely different team in terms of personnel. The Eagles graduated seven seniors, including six of their top eight players. Adam Henry was the lone returning starter, and Archer was the only other player coming back with significant final four experience.

"This is a great bunch of seniors," Germain said of his six seniors. "These guys didn't get off the bench much, didn't get a lot of playing time [last year]. They're talented kids, and what a great job they did."

Bell City's eight-man rotation was able to hold its own against Jefferson's depth. Leading scorers Will Bogan and Nick Niemczyk carried the Cubs in the first half, scoring all but four of Bell City's 26 points.

Jefferson led 33-26 going into halftime after trailing by as many as six points late in the first quarter.

Bell City got the lead down to one at 33-32, and took a 40-39 lead midway through the third on Niemczyk's 3-pointer.

Bogan picked up his fourth foul less than 2 minutes later, but the Cubs were able to stay with Jefferson withouth the 6-foot-10 senior and went into the fourth knotted at 44-44.

Adam Henry hit a 3-pointer to start the fourth, but Bell City used an 8-0 run to lead 52-47.

"Bell City's a great team," Germain said. "The first half I thought we had a great effort. We had a hard time shutting them down.

"Second half. we finally came up with a couple of stops and hit some big shots when we needed them."

Bogan had 10 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, playing the entire period with four fouls. The teams exchanged baskets much of the fourth before Jefferson used a 7-0 run to take the 60-58 lead.

"I just thought we turned the ball over way too many times," Brandtner said.

A night after turning the ball over 31 times, Bell City finished with 26 turnovers against Jefferson. The Cubs had just eight turnovers after halftime, though,

Niemczyk gave the Cubs hope with a 3-pointer to narrow the gap to 64-63 with 9.6 seconds remaining. Craig Mattson drained both of his free throws, which led to Niemczyk's failed attempt to tie the score. Phillip Gross put in a layup at the buzzer for the final margin.

"Our practice shorts said we have 3 minutes written upside down, referring to last year's championship game when we had a lead with 3 minutes left," Brandtner said. "We really wanted it. I can't fault our effort."

Niemczyk led the Cubs with 26 points on eight of 23 shooting. Bogan added 14 rebounds, giving him a two-game total of 35. Phillip Gross added seven points and seven rebounds for the Cubs.

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