Poplar Bluff surges late, turns back ND

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Bulldog tenacity can overcome a lot, but does have its limits.

That fact came to light Tuesday night at Notre Dame Regional School.

The Bulldogs exited the game with all their teeth, which they flashed throughout the game to Poplar Bluff, the No. 5 team in Class 4A, but somewhere along the line Notre Dame lost its shooting touch and the game, 57-43.

Trailing by just a point early in the second half, Notre Dame saw its chances fade with 25 percent shooting for the half.

The Bulldogs like to play for high-percentage shots, but were stymied from all angles by Poplar Bluff's aggressive man-to-man defense. They had to work hard to get loose for shots from inside, and missed several when they got the opportunity. They hit on only three 3-point shots in the game and were only 4 of 7 from the free-throw line.

"In a game like this, we've got to make shots," Notre Dame coach Darin Scott said. "We can't just come out and just play hard."

Poplar Bluff was led by 6-foot-6 freshman Tyler Hansbrough with 19 points. Tony Webb added 14.

Travis Siebert had 14 for Notre Dame and Scott Wittenborn 10.

"This is the most proud I've been of my kids because of our effort, the way we guarded the way we rebounded," Scott said. "We're probably not going to play many people that's going to guard us better than that the rest of the year. I hope not."

The loss dropped Notre Dame to 16-7 overall and 5-3 in the SEMO Conference. Poplar Bluff, 20-3, kept its conference title hopes alive by improving to 6-1.

While Notre Dame was faltering from the field, Poplar Bluff connected on nine of its 12 shots in the second half. Led by the 10 of 11 free-throw shooting by Hansbrough, the Mules were 20 of 27 from the line for the game.

Notre Dame held its only leads of the night in the second quarter.

Hansbrough looked like a senior early, helping stake Poplar Bluff to an early lead by scoring 10 of his points in the opening five minutes of the game. He twice completed conventional three-point baskets after scoring off offensive rebounds. The freshman averages 14.3 points a game.

"He's just going to get better," Scott said. "He's got good ball skills around the basket, he plays smart and makes his free throws. He's got a big upside. I'm sure there's going to be some college coaches drooling about him."

A 3-point basket by Siebert gave the Bulldogs their first lead, 21-19, at the 5:45 mark of the second quarter. After Poplar Bluff tied the score, Wittenborn scored off an offensive rebound to give Notre Dame its final lead 23-21.

Webb tied the game with a bank shot and then put the Mules ahead for good, 24-23, with a free throw. Poplar Bluff led 30-27 at halftime.

Tyler Cuba cut the lead to 30-29 in the first minute of the second half, but Poplar Bluff answered with a 9-2 spurt for a 39-31 advantage. Notre Dame never get closer than six points.

"They're a great defensive team and sometimes we just panicked," Notre Dame junior Cory Beussink said. "Our effort was there. Stuff just didn't go right."

jbreer@semissourian.com

(573) 335-6611, extension 124

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