Monday, March 21, 2011
One team was expected to be playing for a state championship. The other team wasn’t even expected to get a whiff of a district title.
But somewhere in the midst of all those assumptions, the New Bloomfield Wildcats and the Wellington-Napoleon Tigers found themselves locking up for third place in Class 2.
And shoddy shooting that undermined New Bloomfield in Thursday night’s 68-49 semifinal loss to Crane at the Hearnes Center made another appearance Friday night against Wellington-Napoleon.
And this time, the end result was an even wider margin of defeat.
The Wildcats shot just 35 percent from the field — including a paltry 29 percent in the first half — in falling to the Tigers 90-67 at Mizzou Arena in the third-place game.
After winning five straight games to get to the Final Four, New Bloomfield ended the season with two straight losses — the last coming against a Wellington-Napoleon team that was ranked No. 1 in Class 2 for most of the season.
The Wildcats (13-18) trailed 26-11 in a first quarter that ultimately decided the outcome. The Tigers (27-2) produced the game’s first eight points and New Bloomfield found itself down 13-3 before head coach Tyler Clark spent a timeout to try and regroup.
“Our entire playoff run, we had answers when people got up and I think we’re at our best when we push up and get good looks,” Clark said. “So I want to let them play and not overcoach in that situation.”
Wellington-Napoleon was coming off a 73-66 double-overtime loss to No. 4 Bernie in Thursday’s semifinals and played like a team with something to get off its chest. Winners of 20 straight before the loss, the Tigers missed a layup at the end of regulation against Bernie and fended off a shot at the end of the first overtime to leave the game tied at 64-all.
The Mules then took command by outscoring Wellington-Napoleon 9-2 in the second overtime.
The Tigers controlled Friday night’s game offensively and defensively by shooting 50 percent both from the field and 3-point range in the first half and by also forcing the Wildcats into 10 turnovers in the game’s first 16 minutes.
“I felt it was a very physical game and the officiating was consistent,” Clark said. “And when that’s the case, it doesn’t favor us.”
“If you look at their (Wellington-Napoleon’s) team picture, they look like a football team.”
The Tigers’ lead never dipped below double digits after the 4-minute mark of the first quarter. New Bloomfield trailed by as many as 30 points in the second half.
Wellington-Napoleon also controlled the boards, outrebounding the Wildcats 47-36. Tigers senior forward Blake Seitz led all players with a game-high 25 points on 12-of-19 shooting. The 6-foot-4 Seitz imposed his will on the glass as well — pulling down 18 rebounds, including 10 on the offensive end.
“Rebounding was key and we needed stops and we didn’t get them,” Clark said. “And that’s a credit to them because they have a lot of really nice players.
“They really shot the ball well.”
Seitz topped three players in double figures for Wellington-Napoleon. Senior guard Taylor Bryant and sophomore guard Brandon Niendick chipped in with 20 points apiece. For the game, the Tigers shot 45 percent from the field.
“I felt like we shouldn’t change what got us here and we hadn’t played a lot of man defense this year,” Clark said. “We felt like we could stop them with our zone and contested them and gave them tough looks, but to their credit they knocked the shots down.”
New Bloomfield received 22 and 20 points from senior guard Aaron Bedsworth and senior forward Daniel Berry, respectively, who were playing their final game with the Wildcats.
According to Clark, New Bloomfield —which ended the regular season at 8-16 — emerged in the postseason when it really mattered.
After taking out the top three seeds to win the District 5 championship, the Wildcats squeaked out close wins against Canton in sectional play and Salisbury in the quarterfinals.
New Bloomfield returned to the Final Four for the first time since 1995, when the Wildcats finished fourth in Class 1A.
“We exceeded a lot of people’s expectations and it’s an experience I’ll never forget,” Bedsworth said.
•Notes: New Bloomfield's 1991 boys’ and girls’ teams — marking the 20-year anniversary of their respective Class 1A Final Four appearances — were honored on Saturday as part of the Missouri State High School Activities Association’s Courtside Traditions.
The Wildcats, coached by Rod Haley, took third place — ironically — with an 80-77 victory over Wellington-Napoleon.
Players on the 1991 team included Kevin Powell, Mark Baxter, Jay Custard, Kevin Nichols, Shawn Martin, Greg Caudle, Brian Phillips, Evan Polly, Jody Davis, Travis Boessen, Rick Boyd and Mark Schuster.
The Lady Wildcats — led by head coach Kenneth Walker, also took third with a 54-49 win over Malta Bend.
The 1991 roster included Cindy Brown, Angie Lucas, Lori Locke, Jill Ashby, Brandy Carrender, Ginger Barber, Crison Tate, Tina Boswell, Angie Robinson, Shaunti White, Megan Haas and Tanya O’Neal.