March 12th, 2012
Knights Flush Findlay On Way To Final
Phares, Dowe provide lift for Knights' lopsided win
With their season on the line and starting senior forward Luke Sprague out of uniform with his arm in a sling, an air of unpredictability hung over the No. 4 ranked Bellarmine Knights as they prepared to tipoff against the No. 25 Findlay Oilers Sunday evening in the second round of the Division II Midwest Regional.
The knowledgeable fans that filled Knights Hall had a sense that without Sprague’s leadership, three point shooting and fine passing skills, that the home team could be ripe for an upset.
Enter back-up sophomore forward Richie Phares. And re-acquaint yourself with sophomore guard Keisten Jones. These two combined for 33 points on 14-15 shooting and 12 rebounds as they led a first half charge that smothered Findlay and allowed Bellarmine to coast to an 86-63 win. The win improved the Knights record to 27-3 as they advanced to the Midwest Regional final Tuesday night at 7:00pm against arch-rival Kentucky Wesleyan College.
“Tonight, I’m thanking these guys for letting me be a little part of this with them,” Bellarmine head coach Scott Davenport said as he gestured towards Jones and Phares in talking about his team. “That’s a truly amazing performance by a very, very special group of young men. It was a tremendous performance by everybody from start to finish. The preparation was tremendous and it transferred in the competition.”
If the team, the coaches and loyal BU followers were on edge playing without Sprague, Phares gave them all a sigh of relief on Findlay’s first possession as he tipped the ball away from Oilers guard Kyle Ciaola, tracked it down the other end of the court, dove to recover the loose ball and tossed it to Chris Dowe who fed a speeding Jones for a dunk and a 4-0 lead.
“Richie’s hands were incredible,” gushed Davenport. “That deflection and the first dive on the floor that led to a bucket set the tone for the night.”
Jones, who was ultimately the beneficiary of Phares’ fine defensive gem, saw the play unfold before him.
“Richie got the deflection and he chased that ball down all the way from the free throw line,” said Jones. “He dove on the floor, got the ball and I was so pumped I just had to run down the floor. We came up with the ball and I was able to finish off the play. But kudos to Richie, that was (like) a slide into second base.”
After missing nearly two months of the season due to a concussion and concussion-related symptoms, Phares, with that singular effort, let everyone know that he was willing to sacrifice his body for the team. And that provided a big lift for his teammates.
“From the time Luke got hurt, I knew my minutes were going to step up,” said Phares. “Coach D got all of us ready to go. We had been talking in the walk-through about blitzing screens and getting way out there (on the perimeter). He put the ball right in front of me so I just knocked it away and saw it going out of bounds so I had to dive on it.”
If Phares provided the spark that ignited the first half fire, it was the dynamic pair of Dowe and Jones--with a first half assist from guard Jeremy Kendle--who provided the fuel to turn it into an all-call, five alarm drill.
Kendle was red hot early. He hit 5 of 6 shots and made all four of his free throws for 15 points in the first twenty minutes. His efforts helped the Knights take command as they surged to a 45-23 halftime lead. Phares and Jones were both 3-3 from the field in the half and the Knights were a scorching 16-27 with 11 assists.
“First off, we ran into a buzz-saw tonight,” said Findlay head coach Charlie Ernst. “Bellarmine played with some extra fire tonight with their big man out. They rose to the occasion. They’re just not a team that you can get behind because when they do, they get you chasing them. And when you chase them, you’re in trouble because they pass the ball so well. Digging ourselves an early hole was the last thing we wanted to do.”
The Oilers could have used some of that dirt they were digging to put out the flames created by the high flying "Dowe Jones Industrial" duo. Dowe recorded a double-double with 16 points and a career high 10 assists and added two dunks, the second one late in the game as he levitated and slammed down a rebound.
Jones also had two dunks as part of his perfect night from the field. He was 8-8 (4-4 from behind the arc) on the evening, scored 20 points and pulled down 8 boards which tied a career high.
“I had no idea that I hadn’t missed a shot,” said Jones. “You’ve got to shoot every one like it’s going to go in. Coach always tells us that you’ve just got to make one in a row.
And, after a late season dip in their “stock”, the Dowe Jones average took a giant leap after their performance against Findlay.
They plan on moving it even higher Tuesday in the Midwest Regional final against Kentucky Wesleyan.
- The Knights dished out 19 assists and shot a sizzling 32-56 (57 percent) from the field.
- All five starters scored double figures. Jones (20), Dowe (16), Kendle (15), Phares (13) and Hobbs (12). Hobbs also dished out 5 assists, grabbed 5 rebounds and snatched 3 steals.
- Findlay senior guard Kyle Caiola was 4-4 from beyond the arc and scored a game high 26 points for the Oilers.
- The Knights outrebounded Findlay 36-29. Jelani Johnson and Dowe had 7 each.