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Cougars fall short in sectional semis

Rich Bauer, Interim Editor

“We were just one possession short.”
South Central’s postseason ended last Wednesday with a three-point loss to Macon Meridian.
Brandt Hiestand’s three-pointer at the buzzer brought the Cougars within three of the Hawks, but South Central was out of time.
The Cougars were up by one, 12-11, after one quarter, and Macon Meridian had a 15-6 advantage in the second quarter to lead 26-20 at halftime.
South Central was down 45-34 at the start of the fourth quarter, and the Hawks were up by 11 with 5:22 left in the game when one of their players was tagged with a technical foul after Keenin Willshire was fouled going up for a shot.
Willshire made one of two free throws, then Aidan Dodson made both technical foul shots to narrow the gap to nine.
Willshire made two more charity shots with 3:55 left to get the Cougars within five, 50-45.
Meridian scored to go up by seven, and it was up by eight with 50.2 seconds left when a three-pointer by Ethan Watwood got South Central within 5 at 56-51.
The Hawks were up 57-51 when a traditional three-point play by Willshire with 33.5 seconds left made it 57-54.
Three Macon Meridian free throws made it 60-54 before Hiestand’s three-pointer at the buzzer.
Willshire led the Cougars with 17 points, and Spencer Johannes and Dodson were also in double figures, with 14 points each.
Seeing his team fight to the finish after being down by at least 10 early in the fourth quarter did not surprise Cougars coach Blake Doehring.
“They haven’t (given up) all year,” Doehring said. “I can’t say enough great things about our kids.
“We’ve got great kids, and whether we’re down 20 or up, they’re going to compete every possession,” he said.
“Give Meridian credit – they’re really, really, really good, and we’re really right their, too,” Doehring said.
“You know, I just love our kids,” he said. “They play extremely hard, and I’m just grateful that I got to coach them (seniors) for four years.
“Hopefully, you have a little impact on them.
“At home, these two 9-year-olds (his children) talk about these kids,” Doehring said, speaking about the character of his players.
“(They) won a regional championship, we haven’t had a 20-win season since 2009, haven’t won a regional since 2004.
“I don’t know the last time (South Central) won 26 games,” Doehring said.
“We’ve been competitive. These kids have taken it to another and we just have a lot to be thankful for,” he said.
“They’re going to have a banner on the wall, and they can come back in a year, five years or 10 years, and look at that forever,” Doehring said.
“We lose a lot of really good kids – Keenin Willshire, I don’t know how many points he had tonight, but he had 1,290 points coming in tonight, and Spencer Johannes, if you watch him, you’ve just got to love him.
“I’m just thankful I got to coach him for a season and basically have a season last year. I just wish I could have coached him a couple more years,” Doehring said.
“Brandt Hiestand, London Hails, Ryan Jenne, Ethann Hester … I just couldn’t be more thankful for that group, because that was my first group coming in (as South Central coach),” he said.
“And, like I said, they have just taken (our program) to another level that we hopefully can stay at, because, we do have some key pieces coming back … Aidan Dodson, Ethan Watwood, Anthony Buonaura.
This has been a season during which there hasn’t been one player leading in scoring all of the time.
“One game, it’s Aiden, who had a heck of a game on Friday night, to win us a regional, and Spencer (Johannes) is right there, Keenin’s right there, Ethan Watwood has had his moments,” Doehring said.
“Unfortunately, we were just one possession short (tonight), and there’s absolutely nothing to hang your head about,” he said.
“What can you say about this group – 26 wins.”
South Central – Hiestand 2 0-0 5; Watwood 1 0-0 5; Dodson 5 4-6 114; Johannes 6 2-4 14; Buonaura 1 0-0 2; Anderson 0 0-0 0; Hails 0 0-0 0; Willshire 6 4-5 17.
Meridian – Ripple 0 0-0 0; Phillips 4 3-4 13; Day 4 0-0 9; Hurebrink 1 3-3 5; Ralson 0 0-0 0; Brent Brown 1 1-2 3; Clapp 0 0-0 0; Gm. Meisenhelter 8 2-3 23; Gt. Meisenhelter 3 1-4 7.
Three-pointers ­– South Central-Hiestand 1; Watwood 1; Willshire 1.