COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Despite blowing late leads in regulation and both overtimes, Bell City coach David Heeb had few bad things to say about his team after a 92-91 double-overtime loss to St. Elizabeth on Friday in the Class 1 third-place game at Mizzou Arena.
"What a great game, what a great high school game," Heeb said. "I don't think there's been a coach more proud of his kids."
Despite a loss Thursday that denied them a chance to defend their state title, the Cubs (21-11) came out ready to play Friday. If not for some missed free throws and some clutch St. Elizabeth shooting, Bell City would have come home victorious.
Bell City freshman D.D. Gillespie, who finished 9 of 12 from the line for the game, missed the second of two free throws with 7 seconds left and Bell City ahead 91-89. St. Elizabeth's Brad Loethen swished a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the win.
"Free throws, that's the name of the game in close games," Heeb said.
The Cubs actually were having one of their best free-throw shooting games until overtime. Bell City was 15-for-18 from the line in regulation, but only 11 of 16 in overtime.
Even with the missed free throws and some rushed shots, Bell City led 81-74 with 1:13 remaining in the first overtime. St. Elizabeth's Steven Holtmeyer, who had not played a minute during regulation, hit two free throws down the stretch to tie the game and send it into a second overtime.
"You do so many things wrong to leave the door open, but you have to give them credit," Heeb said. "If they miss one shot during that flurry, we win."
St. Elizabeth hit eight 3-pointers after halftime, including three in the first overtime and the game-winning shot in the second overtime. Loethen hit three 3-pointers, including one late in regulation which gave the Hornets a 68-67 lead.
Kerry Wayne Lasters hit a drive near the end of regulation to send the game to overtime for the Cubs, and Gillespie and Lasters carried the Cubs after the half.
Gillespie finished with a game-high 32 points, 29 coming after the half. Lasters finished with 18 points, including a 6-for-6 performance from the line. Both Gillespie and Lasters had struggled in the semifinal loss, combining to go 5-for-16 from the field and 3-for-8 from the line.
"I thought D.D. and Kerry Wayne picked it up from the way they played yesterday," Heeb said.
Jeff Liggins finished with his second straight double-double for the Cubs, scoring 19 points to go with 15 rebounds.
"He's such a fighter in there," Heeb said. "At 6-foot-1, he's not as big as their guards. He just fights in there."
Jacob Akin led the Hornets with 27 points and 20 rebounds. Loethen added 18 points, Marty Bax had 12, and Tyler Holtmeyer scored 10.
For the Hornets, the win gave them a little extra satisfaction after losing to the Cubs in last year's championship game.
"It was a little revenge factor," St. Elizabeth coach T.J. Loethen said.
Freshman Nick Niemczyk added 11 points for Bell City. A.J. Henry, the Cubs' lone senior, scored key free throws in the first overtime for his only points of the game.
Heeb gave Henry a big hug after he came off the floor following the made free throws. Henry has seen his career limited due to numerous injuries, including a battle with Hodgkin's disease this season.
Heeb said his team could learn a lot from Henry and that he brought a lot to the team this season.
"It's just his perseverance, that's the way I would describe him," Heeb said. "He never gives up on himself or his teammates."
Even with two losses the Cubs' future looks bright. Bell City expects to return four juniors, four freshmen and two sophomores.
"They're going to be great next year," Henry said.
Added Heeb: "We're young. These kids will be back here; you can bank on that."
ST. ELIZABETH 92, BELL CITY 91
ST. ELIZABETH (92) -- Darren Wankum 9, Marty Bax 12, Tyler Holtmeyer 10, Jacob Akin 27, Nick Voss 8, Steven Holtmeyer 6, Brad Loethen 18, Phillip Akin 2. FG 26, FT 32-45, F 25 (3-pointers: Loethen 3, Bax 2, S. Holtmeyer 2, Wankum 1, fouled out: J. Akin, Voss)
BELL CITY (91) -- A.J. Henry 2, D.D. Gillespie 32, Kerry Lasters 18, Blaine Stewart 2, Jeff Liggins 19, Nick Niemczyk 111, Austin Segers 1, Marty Dames 4, Phillip Gross 2. FG 31, FT 26-34, F 29 (3-pointers: Gillespie 1, Niemczyk 1, Liggins 1, fouled out: Lasters)