Cooper carries Dowagiac to Class B final

Published 8:04 am Thursday, March 11, 2004

By By SCOTT NOVAK / Niles Daily Star
COLOMA -- Jeff Cooper probably needed some ice for his back Wednesday night following Dowagiac's 50-47, come-from-behind victory over Berrien Springs in the semifinals of the Class B District Basketball Tournament at Coloma High School.
That's because the 6-foot-2 senior carried his squad in the final quarter.
Cooper scored 17 of his game-high 26 points in the final eight minutes as Dowagiac erased a 14-point halftime deficit and advanced to Friday night's championship game.
The Chieftains (8-14) will face Lakeshore, a 63-59 winner over St. Joseph Wednesday night in the first game of the doubleheader.
Not only did Cooper score 17 of Dowagiac's 20 fourth quarter points, he also scored 15 of the Chieftains' final 17 points of the contest.
Dowagiac looked like a tired ballclub, emotionally drained from the huge Monday night win over defending district champion Coloma. As a result, many of the Chieftains' shots fell short and the Chieftains finished the game hitting just 13-of-43 attempts from the field (30 percent). Dowagiac missed 14 of the first 15 attempts it took in the contest.
Dowagiac's lack of energy was evident from the start as Berrien Springs jumped out to a 11-8 first quarter lead which they extended to 30-17 at the intermission.
The Shamrocks (6-15) increased that advantage to 14 points before the Chieftains finally got into an offensive flow and whittled the lead down to six by the end of the third quarter.
Trailing 36-30, Dowagiac quickly closed the gap and took the lead for only the second time in the contest with two minutes remaining, 43-41.
Down the stretch the Chieftains again made just enough free throws to keep the Shamrocks at bay.
Richie Burling added 11 points for the Chieftains, who also got six points from Davey Moran.
Berrien Springs was led by Trey Lockett's 14 points. No other Shamrock hit double figures. Nolan Martin finished with nine points and Vince Ruhumuliza eight.