Dowagiac rallies to beat Benton Harbor 68-60
BUCHANAN — The senior class at Dowagiac has been through a lot over the span or their careers.
According to Dowagiac coach Danum Hunt, those experiences were one of the key reasons why the Chieftains were able to overcome giving up a 19-point lead and finally beating Benton Harbor 68-60 in the Class B district semifinals at Buchanan Wednesday night.
Dowagiac (18-3) led 48-29 early in the second half when Keoante Blackamore picked up his third foul and went to the bench.
The Tigers (15-6) took advantage of Dowagiac’s open middle to not only erase the 19-point deficit, but take a 57-54 lead with 3:10 remaining in the contest as they opened the fourth quarter on a 16-5 run.
“When we got behind I knew were not finished yet,” Hunt said. “We had a few games during the regular season where we had to deal with adversity and it helped us to grow up and how to deal with it. It was just a matter of we needed to find something that would work for us.”
Hunt began switching his defenses in an attempt to slow down the Tigers’ offense.
“We went from a zone, a trapping zone, man-to-man and a run and jump. We switched the various defenses until we found something that worked for us. Once we did that, the guys saw they could get a couple of stops, that kind of rekindled the fire on offense and we were able to get going again.”
Dowagiac owned the final three minutes of the basketball game as it outscored the Tigers 14-3 to pick up the win.
Senior Brandon Winchester-Jones, who had to leave the game briefly with an ankle injury, sparked the run with a pair of free throws. Winchester-Jones would hit six free throws in the final three minutes to lead the Chieftains to victory.
Leroy Lewis, who finished with 14 points, broke the 57-57 tie with 2:07 left and the Chieftains never looked back in advancing to Friday night’s championship game against rival Lakeshore.
“Brandon was huge with the steals and free throws at the end,” Hunt said. “Leroy was huge with the follow-ups. The seniors stepped up. I put it on the shoulders of the seniors. They stepped up tonight and got the job done.”
Dowagiac played one of its best half of the season in opening up a 41-27 halftime advantage.
The Chieftains were able to go inside to Blackamore, who was unstopped against the smaller Tigers. He finished with a game-high 22 points.
Winchester-Jones finished with 18 points, while Lewis grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
Jaton Gunn led Benton Harbor with 19 points, while Shawk Hopkins finished with 14.
Dowagiac’s win over the Tigers was the first for Benton Harbor graduate Hunt.
“Since I have coached, I have not beaten them during the season,” he said. “That was my first time beating Benton Harbor. It is pretty huge to come and face them for the first time this season in the tournament and get the win. We’ve worked for this night, for this game. I told the guys, even though the regular season games count, they were 20 practice games to get us ready for the postseason.”
DOWAGIAC 68, BENTON HARBOR 60
BENTON HARBOR 60
Roy Anderson 7, Elijah Baxter 5, Jaton Gunn 19, Cornelius Newby 2, Curtis Dawson 6, Shawn Hopkins 14, Jalon Stevens 8. TOTALS: 24 7-13 60.
Harry Reed 9, Brandon Winchester-Jones 18, DeYonte Sullivan 3, Leroy Lewis 14, Adrien Bucha-Moore 2, Keoante Blackamore 22. TOTALS: 21 21-26 68.
Benton Harbor 15 27 41 60
Dowagiac 17 41 49 68
3-point baskets: Dowagiac 5 (Reed 3, Winchester-Jones 2), Benton Harbor 5 (Anderson, Baxter, Gunn 3). Total fouls (fouled out): Benton Harbor 23 (Dawson), Dowagiac 12. Varsity records: Dowagiac 18-3; Benton Harbor finishes 15-6.