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Dixie gets defensive — Rebels cruise in opener

Dixie 83, Cochise CCD 63

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — While Dixie College beat Cochise Community College by a comfortable 83-63 margin in Tuesday's opening round of the NJCAA championship, it also left plenty of room for improvement.

The Apaches — who traveled all the way from Douglas, Ariz., only to draw the top-ranked squad from close-to-home southern Utah — would probably rather not catch the Rebels on one of their better days.

While the Dixie offense wasn't great, "its defense was on," said Apache coach Jerry Carillo. "They took away our transition baskets."

Cochise entered the game as the nation's third-most potent scoring team, averaging 98.2 per outing. The Rebels trimmed the average by 30. Dixie was almost always back on defense guarding the basket so that even in transition, the Apaches often settled for an outside jumper rather than the layups they are used to.

"Defensively they are better than anybody we have seen," praised Carillo.

Dixie coach Jeff Kidder was also pleased with his team's defensive job. But with four of his best players in the interview room after the game, he was not about to let them feel too satisfied.

"I guess I would grade the defense as an A," he said. "But an A, not an A-plus. The offense I would give a C-plus or a B-minus."

In the championship bracket, however, the only grade that really matters is pass or fail and the Rebels passed out of the national junior-college equivalent of the "Sweet 16" into the "Elite Eight," where they will face Okaloosa-Walton Community College Wednesday evening, almost exactly 24 hours after the final buzzer of the Cochise game.

The Raiders downed the Saluqis of Southwest Tennessee 89-76 and then watched half of the Dixie-Cochise battle.

The Rebels were not the same team in the two halves, holding only a 36-34 lead after team leader and point guard Marcus Banks sat out a good portion of the first stanza with two fouls. Dixie led most of the game — even through its less-stellar stretches — and only edged its lead beyond 10 points with less than three minutes to go.

In other statistical categories, however, they were dominant. Thanks to their aggressive attacking style, the Rebels shot 40 free throws while the Apaches attempted only 14. They also held a 69-42 rebounding edge, including 25 on offense.

Jamie Lloreda, a freshman from Panama, led the way on the glass with 15 boards and 17 points, many coming on put-backs. While Carillo praised Lloreda as the best post player his squad has faced this season, the 6-foot-9 post player felt that he could have done much better.

"I think I played so-so. I need to raise (my game) a level."

Forward Joshua Clark contributed 16 points and 11 boards. "I felt like I needed to calm down (for the second half)," he said. "We were all way too wired up."

In both halves, Dixie's Eddie Shelby kept hitting the seams of the Apache zone and tallied a game-high 21 points. Banks controlled the tempo in the second-half and managed 10 points.

"He is an awfully good point guard when they are ahead" said Carillo.

Dixie players compared the Apaches to their own Scenic West Athletic Conference's Utah Valley, which finished fourth in league play.

REBEL YELLS: Five members of the Hutchinson newspaper staff made tournament picks, with two picking Dixie to win . . . Two Cochise players, Kevin Henry and Jay Collins, will attend Southern Utah University . . . Okaloosa's Kadrick Brown has committed to play for LSU, but some NBA scouts project the sophomore as a mid-first round draft pick should he turn pro . . . Juco super scout Russ Blake picked Dixie's Jaime Lloreda and Marcus Banks as two of his 12 players from the tournament to keep an eye on in major college or pro basketball . . . In the 1999 NBA draft, three lottery picks — Shawn Marion, Steve Francis and Aleksandar Rakojevic — had played in the NJCAA tournament the previous year.