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Stewartsville provides Bell City a tall 1A task
A tall task lies before the Bell City Cubs in today's Class 1A semifinal game.
More precisely, the lanky Stewartsville Cardinals.
Playing in its first state semifinal game since 1981, Bell City (27-5) will try to cut down Stewartsville (27-3), which features a front line that measures at least 6-foot-5 across.
The teams will cross paths at 12:25 p.m. in Columbia, Mo. The winner will advance to Saturday's 2 p.m. championship game against Sante Fe (23-5) or Community (24-4).
"They've got a lot of big kids," Bell City coach David Heeb said. "I guess that's kind of their strength. We don't have a lot of big kids."
The Cubs will counter with their own strengths -- quickness and depth. It's proven effective in the regular season and postseason, helping Bell City to wins in 18 of its last 20 games and a No. 5 ranking in the state.
"We've run into enough size this year that we're ready for what they're going to bring at us," Heeb said.
Stewartsville, which survived a one-point game with Rockport in the sectional round, is No. 7 in the state and making its first semifinal appearance after winning the school's first playoff game this year.
Chris Motsinger, a 6-foot-5 center, anchors the Cardinals' all-senior front line, which also consists of forwards Jesse Saunders (6-6) and Travis Hunt (6-5). While Motsinger, the school's all-time leading scorer and rebounder, averages 20.6 points and 12 rebounds a game, the other two average around eight points and five rebounds a game. The threesome has combined for 138 blocked shots with Motsinger leading the way with 63.
"Our strength is our inside presence," Stewartsville coach Brian Whitmer said. "Not necessarily rebounding, but scoring and blocking shots with those three guys."
Sharp-shooting junior point guard P.C. Noel (11.5 ppg) is the second-leading scorer and senior guard Jason Bishop rounds out the starting lineup.
Bell City will counter with its own potent threesome in all-state junior guard Eric Henry, senior center C.J. Hadley and sophomore point guard Dominitrix Johnson. The trio, which averages over 50 points a game, has carried the Cubs' offense most of the season, while a deep bench has helped press life out of opponents.
"It may come down to how well we handle their quickness and how well they handle our inside game," Whitmer said.
Bell City has weathered Henry's foul problems in its last two games, with Hadley and Johnson topping 20 points in both victories.
Heeb said contrasting styles sets up an unpredictable game.
"Their strength is in their big people and that's kind of our weakness," Heeb said. "And our strength is the press and our running game, and that's their weakness. So potentially we could blow each other out. But then it could be one of those games where we trade punches for a while. But I like our chances to win the whole thing."
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