Cougars win their 14th MTC Tournament title

Poor perimeter shooting plagued South Central during a so-so start to the 2007-08 season.

What a difference a month and a few shots beyond the arc can make.

The Cougars (14-5) continued their resurgence last week at the Midland Trail Conference Tournament, as a pair of 3-point barrages helped South Central claim the program’s 14th MTC Tournament title.

The top-seeded Cougars hit 7 of 13 from long distance in the first half of last Wednesday’s semifinal against Cisne, enjoying a 13-point halftime lead before holding off a late Lions’ comeback for a 60-50 win.

A similar scenario played out Saturday in the championship against second-seeded Dieterich, as Gary Shirley’s team built up a 14-point halftime lead on the strength of 5 of 7 shooting from 3-point range. The Movin Maroons cut the Cougars lead to just one point late in the third quarter, but South Central wound up hanging on for a 57-50 win.

The Cougars got off to a bit of a rough start in the title game, as Dieterich enjoyed an 8-3 lead midway through the first quarter. But Aaron Robb sparked his team off the bench with back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Cougars a 9-8 lead.

Dieterich battled back and enjoyed a 14-13 lead early in the second quarter before a Tanner Bushue 3-pointer started a 10-0 Cougars run.

South Central wound up outscoring Dieterich 17-4 in the second quarter, as Will Crain capped the half with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that gave the Cougars a 30-16 lead at intermission. The Movin’ Maroons shot just 32 percent in the first half (7 of 22) compared to 11 of 19 shooting for South Central (58 percent).

The Maroons bounced back in a big way in the third quarter, however, outscoring the Cougars 17-6, cutting their lead to a single point at one juncture.

South Central stretched its lead back out to 10 with a run in the fourth quarter, however, and Dieterich was unable to get any closer than four points of the Cougars down the stretch.

Solid free-throw shooting helped propel the Cougars to victory, as they were 20 for 25 at the charity stripe (80 percent). Bushue was 6 for 6 from the foul line, part of a 17-point performance that sewed up tournament-MVP honors for the 6-foot-3 junior swingman.

Crain scored all 13 of his points in the first half, while Isaac Grapperhaus added 12 points. Both players set the tone for the Cougars on the defensive end early on, as Grapperhaus had three blocks in the opening quarter and Crain had three steals.

Grapperhaus and Crain both joined Bushue on the all-tournament team.

The MTC Tournament title was the Cougars’ 11th in the last 13 years.

All-Tournament Team: Tyler Parrish (O), Colton Bailey (NC), Cody Lewis (CC), Brandon Kincart (CIS), Tyler Neimerg (D), Ethan Heuerman (D), Darin Worman (D), Isaac Grapperhaus (SC), Will Crain (SC).

Tanner Bushue (SC).

Dieterich 12 4 17 17 – 50

S. Central 13 17 6 21 – 57

South Central scoring – Burton 0 3-4 3, Bushue 5 6-6 17, Crain 5 1-3 13, Grapperhaus 3 6-6 12, Hall 1 1-2 3, Robb 2 3-4 9. Totals 17 20-25 57.

Dieterich scoring – Berg 1 0-0 2, Heuereman 7 2-2 17, Kuhl 1 0-0 2, Niemerg 3 0-0 7, Teichmiller 1 2-3 4, Worman 5 2-3 12, Wright 2 0-0 6. Totals 20 6-8 50.

Wednesday’s Semifinal

South Central 60,

Cisne 50

Bushue set the tone for the Cougars from behind the arc in the opening 16 minutes, hitting 4 of 6 3-point shots on his way to a 16-point half. As a team, South Central hit 14 of 24 shots from the field (58 percent) in the first half, including 7 of 13 from 3-point range.

The Cougars pushed their lead out to 16 points by the end of the third quarter, and looked to be cruising to victory. But the Lions managed to give South Central a bit of a scare with a 15-5 run that cut the Cougars lead to just six, 53-47, with 2 1/2 minutes to go.

South Central regained control with a 5-0 spurt, however, and avoided an upset to the No. 5 seed.

Bushue led the Cougars with 18 points, while Shea Burton had 12 and Robb had 10 off the bench.

Box score

S. Central 18 16 14 12 – 60

Cisne 11 10 11 18 – 50

South Central scoring – Burton 5-8 1-2 12, Bushue 7-12 0-0 18, Crain 3-9 1-2 9, Grapperhaus 4-10 1-2 9, Hall 0-2 2-2 2, Robb 4-6 0-0 10. Totals 23-47 5-8 60.

Cisne scoring – Kincart 7 0-0 16, Hyder 3 6-8 12, Obrecht 0 1-1 1, Byars 5 4-6 16, Simpson 1 3-4 5. Totals 16-39 14-19 50.

3-point goals – South Central 9-17 (Bushue 4, Robb 2, Crain 2, Burton), Cisne 4-14 (Kincart 2, Byars 2). Rebounds – South Central 25 (Grapperhaus 8), Cisne 23. Turnovers – South Central 8, Cisne 11.

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