Leader Blues

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

SPORTS>>Badgers beat Mills, move into 3rd place

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Beebe’s best offensive player came up with the Badgers’ biggest defensive play of the night in a 58-57 win over Mills University Studies on Friday.

Zach Kersey’s 18 points led the way offensively for what was a balanced scoring game by the Badgers (12-5, 4-2 5A-Southeast), but his forced turnover in front of the Comets’ bench with four seconds left was the play that preserved the win for Beebe.

The final margin was set with 15 seconds remaining when Nick Hansbury hit a jumper to pull Mills to within one. Trey Smith then went to the line for the Badgers, but missed the front end of a one and one. Mills was setting up for one final shot when Kersey rushed in and tapped the ball off Chris Dobbins’ forearm out of bounds to give possession back to Beebe.

“That was big for us,” said Beebe coach Brian Martin. “We played well for most of the game, and I give Mills a lot of credit. They really spread their defense out and slowed us down a little bit. We were in a rhythm, and they made a good adjustment at halftime.”

The Badgers now sit alone in third place in the 5A-Southeast Conference standings, two games behind co-leaders North Pulaski and McClellan. Mills is tied with Sylvan Hills for fourth.

The Comets (11-7, 3-3) used their usual M.O. of tightening things up in the second half after giving up big numbers in the first. The Badgers rushed out to a 17-11 lead after one, and built their advantage further to 32-22 at halftime.

Beebe held Comets leading scorer Hansbury in check for the most part in the third quarter, but it was an eight-point performance by forward Montez Peterson in that time that sparked the Mills rally. The Comets shot only 10 of 30 in the first half, but hit 7 of 14 in the third quarter and 7 of 11 in the final period to go 24 of 55 for the game.

The Badgers shot 12 of 26 at the end of the first half, and 21 of 44 overall.

Mills’ considerable height advantage resulted in a 29-19 rebounding edge. The Badgers were 10 of 15 from the free throw line, while Mills went 6 of 13.

Mills came out on fire in the third quarter and scored on its first six possessions, including an 8-0 run mid-way through the period to cut the Badgers’ lead down to 38-33 at the 4:37 mark. Dobbins hit a three-pointer at the 1:36 mark to cut it to 44-40 heading into the final quarter.

“They were doing a good job of pushing the ball,” Martin said. “We had to stop that, because that got them in a rhythm, and that’s when they went on their run. That really fueled them for the second half.”

The sixth-man made its voice heard on Friday, as the Badger student section whooped it up late.

“Our student section has been great here of late,” Martin said. “I told the guys that if you win at home, the students will come. We’ve lost only two games at home this year. We like playing here. We feel comfortable here, and we want it to be tough to come here and leave with a ‘W’.”

Kersey went scoreless in the third quarter before finding his way back to the basket at the start of the fourth. He started out the period with a three-point basket that gave the Badgers a 47-40 lead, and hit his fourth and final trey of the night at the 3:21 mark on a no-look assist from Will Scott to put Beebe back up by four.

“You’ve got to win your games at home,” said Martin. “And hope to play well on the road, but you’ve got to defend your home court, so I was really elated to see that tonight.”

Kersey also added four assists to his team-high 18 points. Smith finished with 12 points and six assists, while Scott and Anthony Forte each added 10 points. Donte Myles led the Badgers in rebounding with seven boards.