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By BRIAN LANGLEY
Morgan County News
WARTBURG - Four points and one overtime have been all that has separated Sunbright and Oneida in their two previous meetings on the hardwood heading into Saturday night's semifinal matchup of the District 4-A Tournament at Wartburg. Just like the first two times, however, Sunbright (15-10) took care of business and earned a 49-43 overtime victory over the Indians to give them a spot in Tuesday night's District 4-A Championship.
It marked the first time since 2002 that the Tigers had made it to the championship game, and it was the second time that Sunbright head coach Scott Stephens had led a team to the title game after he took the Lady Tigers to the district finals back in 1997.
"I wasn't worried too much about the offense during the game, because it was 43-42 last time at our place, and that is more of the kind of game that we usually play with them (Oneida). We gave up ten points a quarter in the first half and we were just down by four, so defensively we did great job. Defense won the ball game for us tonight," explained Sunbright head coach Scott Stephens.
"We were #2 and #1 (Oliver Springs) had already got knocked out, so all we had to do was take care of our business. My kids stepped up in the second half and done that."
Sunbright dug itself a 7-0 hole six minutes into the game before Drew Kennedy came off the bench to score on a short baseline shot with 1:30 left in the opening quarter. By the end of the quarter, the Tigers were within 10-4.
Oneida gradually built up their largest lead of the night at20-11 with 1:41 left in the first half on a three-pointer by Jonathan Lewallen, but Sunbright's Shayne Kreis scored inside and Allen "Pooh" Hughett knocked down a three-pointer in the final minute to close the gap to 20-16 at the break.
Oneida's Chuck Jeffers had the hot hand early in the third period and scored his team's first seven points of the quarter, but the Tigers countered with nine points combined by Kreis and D.J.Fullbright as they stayed within four at 29-25 with just over three minutes left in the frame. The Tigers ended the quarter on a 4-0 run to slice the margin to 31-29.
Halfway through the final period, Sunbright held a 37-33advantage, but Sunbright ripped off six straight to take their first lead of the night on a Randy Sexton steal and a basket with 2:25left. Jeffers answered on the next trip down with a 14-footer to tie the count at 39. Both teams had unforced turnovers in the final seconds, while Lewallen missed a three-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
Lewallen scored the first basket of the extra period, but Hughett responded with a three-pointer from the corner that gave the Tigers the lead for good at 42-41 with 2:35 left as it ignited a 6-0run to push the advantage to 45-41. The Indians got as close to two, but Sunbright finished the game with four points to secure a 49-43overtime win over Oneida.
"He (Hughett) was at Oneida for part of his career and I think against them he steps up really well and tonight was no exception. He played exceptionally well," said Stephens about Hughett's huge three-point basket.
Sunbright held a 34-28 advantage on the boards.
Sunbright was led by the 1-2 punch of Shayne Kreis (13points, 17 rebounds, 3 blocks) and D.J. Fullbright (13 points, 8rebounds). Allen Hughett (5 assists), Randy Sexton (4 steals) each chipped in 9 points for the win.
"They kept the ball out of the middle on us, but we did some different things. I have five kids on the floor that can score and D.J. Fullbright had a big game tonight and picked up a lot of points," said Stephens.
Oneida was paced by Chuck Jeffers (16 points, 6 steals, 4rebounds). Jonathan Lewallen (8 points, 4 rebounds), Alex Abbott (6points, 8 rebounds) and Caleb Laxton (6 points, 6 boards) played well for the Indians.
Sunbright was set to play Wartburg Tuesday night in the District 4-A finals.
"It's going to be a battle, because all these kids have grown up together, they know each other and that just makes them play that much harder," Stephens remarked prior to the championship game.
TIGERS (49): D.J. Fullbright 13, Shayne Kreis 13, Allen Hughett 9, Randy Sexton 9, Matthew Higgins 3 and Drew Kennedy 2.Three-pointers (3)- Hughett 2 and Kreis 1.