The Daily News/Scott Novak  Darius Wilson goes in for a dunk Monday night as Dowagiac advances to the Class B Regional championship game Wednesday night against Sturgis.
The Daily News/Scott Novak Darius Wilson goes in for a dunk Monday night as Dowagiac advances to the Class B Regional championship game Wednesday night against Sturgis.

Archived Story

Chieftains pull out win

Published 11:11pm Monday, March 14, 2011

THREE RIVERS — It’s very difficult to beat the same team three times in one season.
Dowagiac found that out the hard way Monday night in the Class B Regional semifinals.
The Chieftains were trying to advance to the regional finals for the first time since 1983. Dowagiac found in its way, Wolverine Conference foe South Haven.
The Rams were upset winners of the Class B District at Paw Paw and were looking to add Dowagiac to its list of upsets Monday night. But in the end, the Chieftains were able to do just enough to get past South Haven 70-64.
Dowagiac will now face Sturgis, a 43-40 winner over Charlotte, in the first semifinal. Tip-off is set for 7 pm. at Three Rivers High School Wednesday.
With the game deadlocked at 59-59 and 4:16 remaining, the Chieftains outscored the Rams 11-6 down the stretch to pull out the victory.
Troy Butcher tied the score at 59-59 with a free throw with 4:16 showing on the clock, and Darius Wilson’s three-point play seconds later gave Dowagiac the lead for good. Wilson had just come off the bench and went to the basket despite having four fouls, went coast-to-coast for the basket and a free throw to put the Chieftains up 63-59 with 3:23 remaining. His free throw 14 seconds earlier gave Dowagiac the lead for good.
If South Haven had any thoughts of coming back they ended when Chris Craft drilled a 3-pointer with 2:02 showing on the game clock as Dowagiac extended its advantage to 66-69.
The Chieftains could have salted the game away in the final two minutes, but South Haven remained alive as Dowagiac misfired on seven of 11 free throws.
Thankfully for the Chieftains, it was the defense from the middle of the fourth quarter on that gave Dowagiac the win.
“Our defensive intensity midway through the fourth quarter picked up,” Dowagiac coach Danum Hunt said. “Apparently since we played South Haven and we beat them by 19 or more twice, they thought it was going to be a cake walk. I have been telling them the whole time that tournament time is different. Everybody’s play goes up. South Haven may have had a below par season, but when you come in and win three games in a row and win a championship, the confidence level goes way up. It took our guys about three-and-a-half quarters to wake up and really get after it there.”
With Wilson seated on the bench with foul trouble in the fourth quarter, Dowagiac turned to back-up center Eric Charles who came up huge for the Chieftains.
Charles allowed Hunt to keep Wilson seated on the bench because of the quality minutes he was getting out of his reserve. Charles not only was playing well at the defensive end and rebounding, but he knocked down a couple of shots that kept the Chieftains in the game when it looked like South Haven was ready to take charge of the contest.
“We got some huge minutes from Eric Charles down there at the end,” Hunt said.
The game was close throughout with neither team really able to get away from the other.
Dowagiac led 19-16 after one quarter of action thanks in part to a pair of late baskets by Dontel Highsmith, who finished with a game-high 23 points.
The Chieftains were not able to maintain that advantage in the second quarter and as a result, South Haven grabbed a 32-30 halftime advantage.
The Rams outscored Dowagiac 14-11 in the second quarter to take the lead.
The Chieftains were able to regain control early in the second half and opened up a 39-35 lead on a dunk by Wilson, but South Haven was able to battle back and knotted the game at 41-41 with 3:04 to play on a pair of free throws by Brian Harris.
A bucket by Tony Canonie gave South Haven back the lead, which it stretched to 48-45 with 45.8 seconds left in the quarter on a 3-pointer by Harris.
Highsmith as if to will the Chieftains back into the game, connected on three straight baskets, including a 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds left on the clock to tie the game at 50-50 heading to the final quarter.
The two teams battled back and forth throughout the first four minutes of the final period, but Dowagiac was able to pull away late and advance to the championship game.
Besides Highsmith’s offensive output, Dowagiac also got 17 points from Wilson and 11 points from Tremail Butcher.
Harris led South Haven with 18 points, while Ryan Jones added 13 and Canonie 11.

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