Bell City bombs Bunker from start, wins 96-32

Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Bell City's Marty Dames shot over Bunker's Lightening Gibson in the second quarter of the opening round in the Class 1 District 2 tournament Monday at Zalma. (Fred Lynch)

ZALMA, Mo. -- Bell City's Phillip Gross knew he and his teammates were in store for a fun game Monday against Bunker when he threw up a shot during the first quarter while falling down.

The attempt bounced off the top of the backboard, up in the air and then fell straight down through the net for two points.

"I was falling down, and I just shot it," Gross said. "And then I saw it go in, and I was like, 'Wow, this is going to be good.'"

Gross ran back on defense chuckling a bit.

Along with teammate Nick Niemczyk, Gross put on a shooting clinic against the Eagles. The two combined to score 22 points in the first quarter, helping the Cubs outscore Bunker 34-3 in the period.

Bell City's Phillip Gross shot over Bunker's Ethen Highley during the first quarter of their Class 1 District 2 tournament game Monday at Zalma High School. (Fred Lynch)

With a 31-point lead, Bell City cruised to beat Bunker 96-32 in Class 1 District 2 action at Zalma High School.

The Cubs will play Leopold tonight in the district semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Eminence and Lesterville will meet in the other semifinal at 6 p.m.

Niemczyk led the Cubs with 22 points, including 9-of-11 shooting from 2-point range, while Gross netted 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field.

Bell City shot 57 percent from the field, including 68 percent from 2-point range.

Gross and Niemczyk were excited for the postseason to begin Monday. After the Cubs placed second in Class 1 last year, the pair is looking to help Bell City put together another run to the state tournament. For both Gross and Niemczyk, Cubs basketball is certainly in their blood.

Bell City's John Arnold, center, and Bunker's Ethen Highley tried to gain control of the ball in the third quarter at Zalma.

Gross' father and a few of his uncles played at Bell City during the 1980s, while Niemczyk's father and an uncle wore the red and black uniform, playing together on the same team.

Gross, who added that one of his uncles was a member of a third-place state team, said it is important to keep the tradition alive and do his best to help the Cubs go as far as possible -- possibly bringing back first place this year, although he admitted it will be a difficult task. He said it would be a step farther than any member of his family, who are devout followers.

"They're always telling me to get my shot better and to handle the ball better," Gross said, laughing as he discussed his family of former players.

Bell City coach Brian Brandtner said winning is important to Gross and Niemczyk because their predecessors were successful.

"Tradition at Bell City is huge," Brandtner said. "And Phillip's dad and uncles were great players, and Nick's dad was a great player. And in these small communities when tradition is handed down from one generation to the next, it stays and there is continuity there. The expectations are there. You've got to live up to them."

They lived up to the expectations against Bunker.

The Cubs went on a 17-0 run in the first 5 minutes and 29 seconds of the contest. Gross scored four of his team's first six points and had eight points over the stretch, while Niemczyk added six points during the run.

"It doesn't matter who we're playing, we just try to keep everything the same, do everything the same," Niemczyk said. "Phillip is just an unbelievable athlete. He can do so much other stuff that people can't do."

Brandtner added: "You want to stay solid and continue to do what you do. You don't want to get too sloppy if you get a lead like that and pick up bad habits. We were hitting some shots out there, and it was an opportunity to do some different things we haven't had a chance to do. And when you get a big lead, you want to stay solid."

After Bunker started the second quarter with a 3-pointer, the Cubs went on another 17-0 run over the next 4 minutes to build a 51-6 advantage.

"A lot of shooting percentage is dictated by the defense that plays against you," Brandtner said. "And I'm sure we'll have tougher nights. We'll have tougher defenses. We've been really working to get open on offense, and I think we're doing a better job of doing that."

The Cubs entered halftime with a 64-13 lead. Many of their starters sat for long periods in the second half and the running clock was implemented in the fourth quarter.

Gross said his team must remain focused as it moves forward this week.

But how does Bell City not become too overconfident after a 64-point win?

"Coach B tells us to look at every opponent like they have a chance to beat us," Gross said.


Bunker 3 10 11 8 -- 32

Bell City 34 30 18 14 -- 96

Bell City (96) -- Ethan Watkins 2, Nick Niemczyk 22, Melvin Johnson 11, Alan Long 9, Phillip Gross 18, Jeff Long 3, Ronnie Gross 7, Marty Dames 8, Austin Bush 5, Skylor Blackler 3, John Arnold 3. FG 37-65, FT 10-14, F 6. (3-pointers: Johnson 3, A. Long 3, J. Long 1, R. Gross 2. Bush 1.

Bunker (32) -- Ethen Highley 11, Kyle Bishop 5, Dalton Harper 2, Caleb Talkington 5, Caleb Richardson 3, Lightening Gibson 5, Devon Wisdom 1. FG 11. FT 1-3. F 10. (3-pointers Highley 3, Bishop 1, Talkington 1, Richardson 1, Gibson 1.)

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