Bulldogs land spot in District 9 semifinals

South Callaway was clearly flustered by St. James’ choking defensive pressure, as 30 turnovers will attest, but the Bulldogs were emboldened by a fast start.

No. 6 seed South Callaway bolted to a 17-6 lead after one quarter and then managed to keep No. 3 St. James at bay as the Bulldogs tripped the Tigers 67-56 late Tuesday night in the first round of the Class 3, District 9 Tournament.

“That set the tone,” South Callaway head coach Tony Brandt said of the Bulldogs’ first-quarter effort. “St. James is a pressing team; they send two guys to the ball everywhere.

“We had great ball movement, we were hitting guys (behind the press) and we were attacking well.”

The Bulldogs took a 35-27 advantage into halftime and pushed their lead to 51-39 to open the fourth quarter.

Senior guard Bryan Lechner connected for a game-high 23 points to direct South Callaway (15-10), while senior forward Jacob Wolfe supplied 19. Lechner (eight) and Wolfe (six) accounted for 14 of the Bulldogs’ 17 points in the first quarter.

Senior guard Will Brandt also finished with 17 points for the Bulldogs.

“We were never able to get into any of our offensive sets (because of St. James’ pressure),” Tony Brandt said. “We had to move the ball, play and make decisions. We did a decent job of playing through our mistakes.”

Jake Harlan topped the Tigers with 15 points, including four 3-pointers, and Jack Mueller chipped in with 10 points.

“It wasn’t our best defensive effort,” Tony Brandt said. “(Turnovers) put us in a position where we had to play three-on-two or a little transition defense.”

South Callaway — which has won 11 of its last 14 — now moves on to a semifinal showdown against No. 2 Fatima at 7:30 tonight. The Comets outlasted No. 7 Cuba 61-57 in first-round play Tuesday night.

Tony Brandt noted that Fatima head coach Ryan Robertson owns a 15-1 career record in district games.

“(The Comets) are very well-coached; he is a big piece of that puzzle,” Brandt said. “They’re young and they can shoot it. They have some size inside but they’re not real physical; they’re long and athletic.”

Brandt expects Robertson to resort to a defensive gimmick in an attempt to baffle the Bulldogs.

“He’ll probably throw a junk defense at us that we’ve never seen before,” Brandt said. “The key for us is to not just stand — we have to continually pass, cut and move.”

In tonight’s first semifinal at 6, top-seeded Blair Oaks faces No. 4 Southern Boone.

South Callaway ended the regular season with a 73-54 Mid-Missouri Conference victory over Hallsville at Mokane last Friday night. The Bulldogs completed MMC play at 5-3.

Lechner — who made all three of his 3-point attempts — sparked South Callaway with 20 points. Will Brandt, who surpassed the 1,000-point plateau in his career with the Bulldogs, was 9-of-12 from the free-throw line and ended up with 18 points.

Wolfe — who was 8-of-10 from the field — contributed 16 points and senior forward Eli Bartley grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds.

Hallsville......................................67

North Callaway basketball (VB)...52

CENTRALIA — The No. 5 seed Thunderbirds were victimized by the No. 4 Indians’ 16-2 run down the stretch in Tuesday night’s first-round loss of the Class 3, District 8 Tournament.

North Callaway was down by as many as 14 points in the third quarter and trailed 45-38 to start the fourth quarter, but was able to narrow the gap to 47-44. However, Hallsville answered with its decisive run to pull away for the victory.

Senior forward Jacob Stafford responded with a game-high 22 points — including 16 in the second half — to guide the Thunderbirds. Senior forward Andrew Attebery followed with 10 points.

North Callaway, which split its two Mid-Missouri Conference games with the Indians during the regular season, finished with a 5-18 record.

“I was very proud of the way we went down fighting,” Thunderbirds head coach Tim Turlington said.

Jacob Wooten countered with 18 points to pace three players in double figures for Hallsville (6-16). Daniel Mahurin added 12 points and Brendan Beatty contributed 11. The Indians will face (St. Charles) Christian in tonight’s semifinals.

Centralia meets Winfield in tonight’s other semifinal matchup.

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