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Smith Center girls bounce back with third-place MCL finish

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

Complicated wasn't working for the Smith Center High School girls' basketball team midway through its third-place game of the MCL Tournament against Hill City on Saturday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.

Trailing by seven points at the break to the Ringnecks, Smith Center coach Nick Linn wanted his team to get back to the basics.

"What we did to get back was simplify everything and I think that's kind of obvious to the world," Linn said. "We basically went wing to low-block entry to the person that was hot, which was the Mann girl. And we finished a whole lot of plays that way so we stuck with that pretty much the whole second half."

Led by Drew Mann's 22 points, with all but two coming in the second half, Smith Center rallied to beat Hill City 50-47 to bounce back from a 57-29 loss to Ellis on Friday in the tournament semifinals.

Mann, a 5-foot-11 junior, scored 10 points against Ellis and was non-existent in the first half against Hill City, getting only a single basket in the second quarter. But in the second half the Lady Red started to force-feed her the ball, and Hill City had no answer.

"She did things in that second half that we expect of her," Linn said. "She kind of came out of her shell tonight and really wanted the ball. She demanded the ball tonight and we are looking for her and (Colbie Decker) and those inside girls to really demand the ball."

Hill City led 16-10 after a quarter and 28-21 at halftime. The Ringnecks' largest lead came at 30-21 after a quick basket by Lexie McDowell to open the second half.

Then the Mann Show began. She scored 12 of Smith Center's 16 third quarter points to cut the Hill City lead to 40-37 heading into the final quarter.

Smith Center tied the game at 42 and then took its first lead since it was 2-0 at 49-47 with 1 minute, 4 seconds to play after a basket by Sierra Kuhn. It proved to be the final field goal of the game. McDowell had her share of chances to tie the game in the final minute, but saw multiple three-point attempts fall short.

"Those kids in the locker room are thrilled because third place meant something," Linn said. "We've struggled this year to make ends meet. Our chemistry has been off a little bit. This whole game was a mountain to climb. Once we got that lead we didn't relinquish it."

In the girls' fifth-place game, Oakley topped Norton 55-37 behind a balanced scoring front, led by Brooke Ottley's 16 points. Johnnye Ruder led Norton with 14.

In the girls' seventh-place game, Plainville shut down Stockton in a 42-29 win. Lyric Dewey led the Cardinals with 12 points, while Morgan Beougher led Stockton with 13.

Phillipsburg boys rally past Oakley for third place

As the game wore on between Phillipsburg and Oakley in the boys' third-place game of the MCL Tournament at GMC on Saturday, the offenses wore down.

After a high-paced first half, the team's slowed to a halt and Phillipsburg found enough of a push in the second half to beat Oakley 60-47.

The Panthers' win was a good answer after a 69-56 loss to Plainville on Friday in the tournament semifinals.

"I know the kids were disappointed last night. They wanted to get to that championship game, but Plainville deserved it," Phillipsburg coach Keith Sides said. "Any time you can go into the MCL Tournament and go 2-1 you should be pretty happy."

The game was tied at 18 after a quarter and Phillipsburg held a 34-32 lead at halftime. The third quarter was a defensive bout, as the Panthers outscored Oakley 10-4 to take a 44-36 lead into the fourth quarter.

From there Phillipsburg pulled way to win by 13.

"Just one of those games where we came out in the third quarter and got that momentum and it carried us into the fourth quarter," Sides said. "I thought Oakley did a great job of getting down the court in the first half with us being a lot taller team, but their kids ran really well. I think our speed and quickness won that second half."

Stephen Sage led Phillipsburg with 17 points, the only Panther in double figures. Braydon Hubert had 16 for Oakley, with 12 more coming from Austin Baalman.

In the boys' fifth-place game, Norton beat Ellis 49-44 behind 17 points from Quinton Porter. Stockton beat Hill City 53-46 in the seventh-place game.