Southeast rally short this time

Friday, December 10, 2004

This time, another big comeback by Southeast Missouri State University only ended in disappointment.

Five days after wiping out a 17-point second-half deficit and beating South Dakota State on a 3-pointer at the buzzer, Southeast's rally fell short, as visiting Montana held on for a 69-66 victory when Dainmon Gonner's open 3-point shot at the buzzer missed everything.

A crowd of 3,283 at the Show Me Center Thursday night saw Southeast fall to 2-4, while the Grizzlies improved to 3-3 before they head to Columbia for Saturday's game at Missouri. Southeast hosts NAIA Central Methodist on Saturday night.

"Whenever you get behind like we've gotten behind the last two games, it's dangerous to think you'll come back," Southeast coach Gary Garner said.

Southeast, trailing virtually the entire way and behind 66-54 with a little more than five minutes remaining, held Montana without a field goal the rest of the way while storming back.

Gonner's basket with 35 seconds left cut Montana's lead to 69-66. Less than 15 seconds later, Montana freshman point guard Matt Martin -- who otherwise had a strong game -- turned the ball over after being trapped. Southeast gained possession and called a timeout with 18 seconds left.

Garner said Southeast would have gladly taken a quick two-point basket, but Montana's defense was set up to guard against that. The plan then was to get senior guard Brett Hale open for a 3-pointer, but Montana had him covered.

The second option was Gonner, and the senior forward found himself virtually all alone on the left side. But his shot from about 23 feet was too strong and did not even touch the rim.

"I rushed it bad," Gonner said. "We were going to run a set play we called for Brett, but they doubled him. I got an open look, but I just rushed it."

Said Garner: "Dainmon was wide open. You can't ask for a better look."

Gonner, after struggling in the first half, scored 13 points in the second half and finished with a game-high 18, along with eight rebounds.

Fellow senior forward Reggie Golson had a double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds, and he also blocked three shots. First-year junior center Ketshner Guerrier added a season-high 11 points.

Montana received 15 points from Kamarr Davis, a bullish 6-foot-7, 255-pound senior forward who hit all seven of his field-goal attempts -- every one coming from within a few feet of the basket.

"Davis is a stud," Garner said.

Martin and junior guard Kevin Criswell each added 13 points. Both hit three of five 3-pointers as they added a solid outside compliment to Montana's powerful inside game that Southeast feared and led to numerous easy baskets. The Grizzlies shot 52.4 percent (28 of 53).

"Davis is a really good player. They've got some big, strong guys, but we should have contained them better," Golson said. "But they have a real nice team."

Southeast held three brief early leads, the last at 9-7, but Montana used an 11-0 run to go ahead 18-9 and Southeast faced an uphill battle the rest of the night.

Montana's biggest lead was 13 points midway through the first half. Southeast got within one point late before the Grizzlies surged ahead 37-30 at the intermission.

Southeast made several second-half runs but Montana was able to counter every one and seemed to have total control at 66-54 with barely five minutes remaining.

But an 8-0 Southeast run -- Gonner scored the final six points -- made it 66-62 and set up another thrilling finish that featured some controversy.

With 2:07 left and Montana leading 67-64, Garner was steaming after Martin appeared to blatantly elbow Southeast freshman point guard Paul Paradoski in the nose immediately after Paradoski fouled Martin.

But Martin was not whistled despite sending Paradoski to the bench with Southeast's second bloody face of the night, after senior guard Mike Nelke missed about 15 minutes after taking a charge early in the second half that resulted in a bloody mouth that Garner expected to require stitches.

Garner, not wishing to publicly criticize the officiating, said simply: "The official told me he called the foul on Paradoski first," although Garner seemed to suggest that the original foul should not have excused what might have been an intentional foul that could have swung the game.

In any event, Martin hit both ends of a one-and-one to put Montana up 69-64 and the Grizzlies were able to survive the frantic ending.

"This was a game we could have won, but you've got to give them credit because they pretty much answered our runs every time," Garner said. "They're a good team, big and strong inside, and they've got the two good outside shooters."

Southeast, a poor rebounding team all season, outrebounded Montana 33-24, attempted 10 more free throws than the Grizzlies and shot a respectable 47.1 percent (24 of 51). But in the end, Garner said 19 turnovers did his club in.

"A lot of them were unforced, where we just threw the ball away. They really didn't press us, and in that kind of game, you should have maybe 10 or 11 turnovers," Garner said. "Our kids played hard and fought, but you can't turn the ball over like that against a good team."

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