Leopold holds off Zalma in MVC Tournament semifinals

Friday, February 5, 2010
Leopold's David Fluchel readies to shoot as Zalma's Thad McGregor defends during the first quarter of their semifinal game in the Mississippi Valley Conference tournament Thursday at Chaffee. (TIM BRUMITT)

CHAFFEE, Mo. -- Stephen Simmers and Justin Stotts only could carry Zalma's upset bid so far.

The two junior guards combined for 41 points, but Leopold escaped with the 61-55 victory in their Mississippi Valley Conference boys basketball semifinal Thursday.

"Their whole offense goes through Simmers and Stotts," Leopold coach Shawn Kinder said. "They are very, very good players. We just knew we had to double and get the ball out of their hands, make another kid make a decision that wasn't comfortable in that type of situation."

The Bulldogs led after each of the first three quarters, but the state-ranked Wildcats proved too much. Leopold scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to gain the lead, but the pesky Bulldogs wouldn't quit.

Stotts, who surpassed 1,000 points in his career during the game, hit a 3-pointer with 3 minutes, 34 seconds left to pull Zalma within two at 53-51. Leopold pushed its lead to six points until back-to-back Zalma baskets got the Bulldogs within two at 57-55 with 40 seconds remaining. The Wildcats hit 4 of 6 free throws from there to ice the victory and advance to today's tournament championship game against Oak Ridge. Tipoff is set for 8:30 p.m.

Zalma's Justin Stotts drives against Leopold's Anthony Seabaugh during the fourth quarter of their semifinal game in the Mississippi Valley Conference tournament Thursday in Chaffee, Mo. (TIM BRUMITT)

Simmers led the Bulldogs with 24 points, including four 3-pointers.

"I've been spending a lot of time in the gym shooting, just working hard," he said.

Simmers said it's important for other players to help him and Stotts shoulder some of the scoring load, but he knows the Bulldogs (7-10) are a young team.

"Right now we've got a bunch of sophomores and we're trying to build them up for next year," Simmers said. "Right now they're a little afraid to shoot the ball in games and we're trying to get them where they'll shoot it."

It looked like Zalma would take an eight-point lead into halftime after it scored in the waning seconds. But Leopold senior David Fluchel nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that covered about three-fourths of the court. It didn't keep Kinder from delivering a stern message to his team at the break.

Leopold's Anthony Seabaugh takes a shot over Zalma defenders Jake Reed, left, and Thad McGregor during the second quarter of their semifinal game in the Mississippi Valley Conference tournament Thursday at Chaffee.

"Just more or less talked to them about what we expected," Kinder said. "I felt like we came out flat. I don't know if our kids overlooked them or just got overconfident about the game. I just felt like we didn't have any energy to start the game."

The Wildcats improved to 14-4 with the win.

Zalma2491413--55
Leopold16121320--61

ZALMA (55) -- Stephen Simmers 24, Thad McGregor 6, Andrew Tucker 2, Jake Reed 3, Justin Stotts 17. FG 22, FT 3-8, F 16. (3-pointers: Simmers 4. Fouled out: McGregor)

LEOPOLD (61) -- Kyle Stroder 14, David Fluchel 13, Ryan Davis 6, John Bohnsack 7, Lance Seiler 4, Anthony Seabaugh 17. FG 22, FT 14-22, F 8. (3-pointers: Stroder 1, Fluchel 1, Bohnsack 1. Fouled out: none)

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