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Cubs claw to third-place win against Oran
Monday's seMissourian Christmas Tournament third-place game matched a pair of Class 1 district rivals.
Judging from Bell City's 67-58 win over Oran, the rivalry is alive and well.
Both teams picked up technical fouls in what proved to be a physical second half. The Eagles closed the gap to two several times in the second half but could not get over the hump.
Oran guard Ryan Bouge said the game was typical of the style of play when the teams get together.
"It's just both teams competing," he said. "Playing to win."
Fifth-seeded Oran (6-4) started strong with top scorer Nathan Seyer putting up three quick scores early. A pair of free throws by Eric Henry tied the score at 11 midway through the first quarter and the sixth-seeded Cubs (9-2) went on a run from there, closing the first quarter with 11 straight points to secure a 20-11 lead after one quarter.
Bell City coach David Heeb said his team's strong defensive effort helped stimulate the offense.
"The better defense we play, the better our offense will look," he said.
While the Cubs were solid defensively, they had problems on the boards in the first half. With the help of second-chance baskets, the Eagles made a quick 10-0 run to start the second quarter.
Garrett Roslen's bucket with a little more than four minutes left in the half gave the Eagles a 21-20 lead. Henry ended the Eagles run with a three-pointer, and the Cubs used another offensive spurt to build a 32-25 halftime lead.
Both teams finished the half with 11 field goals with the difference coming from the Cubs' strong outside shooting. Bell City drained five three-pointers in the first half with Dominitrix Johnson sinking a pair.
Heeb said his team's offensive execution was much better than Saturday's semifinal performance against Notre Dame when top scorers Johnson and Henry were in foul trouble.
"I just think the kids executed tonight," he said. "If we're sound executionally, even if one guy comes out we should still be able to play well."
Johnson's performance was even more impressive considering he was sporting a 102-degree fever before the game.
"I couldn't breath," Johnson said. "I felt terrible."
Johnson's first-half play was as hot as his temperature. Johnson scored 12 of his game-high 19 points in the half and created scoring chances with his drives to the hoop.
Johnson said he wasn't about to let a health issue get in his way of a chance to beat Oran.
"I just wanted to make sure we won," he said.
Oran started the second half with back-to-back baskets that cut the lead to three. The Cubs answered quickly, using a 7-2 run to push the lead up to eight.
The Cubs were primed to bring the lead to double digits when Bell City picked up a technical foul. Patrick Friga made both free throws for the Eagles, which set off a 5-0 run for Oran, cutting the lead to three.
After trading buckets the Eagles were able to cut the lead to 43-41 on a Bouge three-pointer. The Eagles were able to stay close early in the fourth, but a strong fourth quarter free throw performance (16-for-23) by the Cubs helped them put the game away.
Bouge said the team just wasn't on against Bell City.
"We haven't been concentrating the last couple of games," he said. "We also haven't been blocking out."
While Johnson and Henry led the team in scoring once again with 19 and 17 points, respectively, the Cubs got solid games from Ben Duncan and A.J. Henry as well. Both scored 11.
Heeb said A.J. Henry's play was a big lift for the team.
"I think he was critical," Heeb said.
Although a third-place finish may not be as satisfying as a championship, Heeb said he was proud of his team's tournament result.
"I can't think of the last time Bell City did this well in the tournament," he said.
Friga led the way for the Eagles with 16 points. Seyer scored 13, but was plagued by foul trouble throughout the game and fouled out with 2:40 left.
Bouge, who scored 10, said the Eagles will be ready for Bell City the next time they meet.
"We'll get them the next time," he said.
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