WEST PLAINS, Mo. -- It took a half, but the Bell City boys basketball team showed why it is ranked No. 2 in the state Saturday.
Bell City outscored defending state champion Verona by 27 points in the second half and posted a 67-40 victory in the Class 1 quarterfinal at the West Plains Civic Center.
The Cubs will make their second trip to Columbia in three years, seeking a state title to match their 2002 championship. Bell City improved to 26-4, while Verona finished at 21-8.
Bell City will face Bevier in a semifinal game 7:55 p.m. Friday at the Hearnes Center in Columbia.
"This is just the beginning," Bell City star Dominitrix Johnson said. "Two more to go; that is the way we are looking at it."
Bell City got off to a rough start on Saturday, falling behind 7-2 after scoring the game's first point. But with the help of a nine-man rotation which subbed early and often, Bell City was able to cut the deficit to 14-12 by the end of the quarter.
"I thought our depth hurt them a lot," Bell City coach David Heeb said. "Our conditioning hurt them a lot. I thought they wore down."
Bell City grabbed its first lead less than two minutes into the second quarter at 17-15. Verona stayed with the Cubs, though, as Randon Jones hit a pair of 3-pointers and Kent Stellwagen added four points. The teams went to the half tied at 28.
"I thought they hit some unbelievable shots," Heeb said of Verona. "It reminded me of the Clarkton game a bit."
Bell City lost to Clarkton in last year's sectional round.
Johnson carried the Cubs in the first half. He scored 17 of Bell City's 28 points, including 10 in the second quarter. Johnson had his way with the Verona guards, scoring at will off his drive.
"I noticed that early in the first half," Johnson said. "In the second half I tried to penetrate more."
Bell City came out firing after the break. Zak McIntyre scored eight straight points for the Cubs in a 13-4 run. Derek Pobst's layin off a Bell City steal capped the run and put the Cubs ahead 41-32 late in the third.
"I think Zak picked us up when we needed him to," Johnson said. "Zak hit some big shots."
Verona managed only seven points in the third quarter and did ont get on the board in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. Bell City, meanwhile, rattled off the first 10 points of the final period.
"They scored eight points in 14 minutes," Heeb said. "I thought that was the big thing."
With the Wildcats struggling from the floor, Bell City went for the jugular. Randy Conn's back-to-back 3-pointers sparked the Cubs' final spree, as they outscored Verona 26-5 in the fourth.
Johnson led Bell City with 27 points. Fellow seniors McIntyre and Conn each scored in double figures with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
In the second half, Bell City's five seniors combined for 32 of its 39 points.
"That was all Zak, Randy, Dom and Derek," Heeb said. "They've been in the fire before."
Post players Tyler Victor and A.J. Henry each had their moments for the Cubs. Henry, who missed most of the season due to injury, gave the Cubs a spark off the bench and finished with seven points. Victor was strong on the boards and added six points.
"I thought it was a game where different people stepped up when we needed them to," Heeb said.
Injured Bell City starter Blaine Stewart even got in the act, hitting a 3-pointer late in the quarter on a broken foot.
Nick Stellwagen led Verona with 12 points.
Bell City 67, Verona 40
VERONA (40) -- Nick Stellwagen 12, Brandon Busselman 6, Kent Stellwagen 6, Randon Jones 6, Adam Koehler 7, Kevin Welters 2, Robert Delgado 2. FG 14, FT 6-16; F 16 (3-pointers: Jones 2, Busselman 1, N. Stellwagen 2. Fouled out: none)
BELL CITY (67) -- Dominitrix Johnson 27, Zak McIntyre 11, Randy Conn 10, A.J. Henry 7, Tyler Victor 6, Derek Pobst 3, Blaine Stewart 3. FG 26, FT 11-18, F 15 (3-pointers: Conn 2, McIntyre 1. Fouled out: none)