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Dixie loses heartbreaker

Rebels fall despite leading by 2 with 23 seconds left

Wabash Valley 76, Dixie State 73

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Dixie College is no longer in the running for an NJCAA basketball championship, but they are making a late push to earn an Oscar for "Best Drama."

The Rebels fell 76-73 to Wabash Valley Friday night, losing a thriller to the Illinois squad after both schools won in overtime on Wednesday to reach the juco Final Four. Dixie did manage to lose in dramatic fashion, but that is little consolation to the Rebels.

"The loss hurts tremendously," said Dixie point guard Marcus Banks, who was a leading contender for tournament MVP until the loss. "I will never put this behind me because we were so close. I will live with this the rest of my life."

Banks' slashing layup with 23 seconds left put the Rebels up 73-71. Defensive-minded Dixie talked during a timeout about needing only a single defensive stand to win the game. They delivered the initial stop but the rebound was harder to collect, and by the time the lunging and scrambling was over, the Warriors' Darren Tarver had an open 3 that he nailed with 10 seconds remaining, the most important 3 of his team-high 21 points. Down only a point, things still looked OK for Dixie, which elected not to use a timeout and let Banks — headed to UNLV — take the ball full court and slash. But when he made a turnover instead of a bucket, he was forced to foul Antwain Barbour.

Barbour, who finished with 19 points, hit both of his free throws, something the Rebels rarely did on a night when they made just 10-of-19 from the line, a sorry 53 percent compared to 56 percent from the field.

Still, there were 5.1 seconds left, and it looked as if the Rebels might get a replay of their miracle finish two nights earlier. But this time they trailed by 3 instead of 1. Banks advanced the ball upcourt and dished to the left elbow, where Alfred Williams, who had 10 points off the bench, launched a 3 that rimmed out at the buzzer. Dixie players collapsed to the floor while Wabash erupted.

"We are 34-2," said Dixie coach Jeff Kidder. "We have struggled from the line all year and it finally caught us. I have lived with that as an ulcer. We lost the game in the first half in a lot of ways. If we had hit them in the first half (when Dixie was 6-of-15), we would have been up six or seven."

Both Kidder and Wabash coach Jay Spoonhour called the game a contest of big plays. On the Dixie side Banks was spectacular on offense, dishing and driving, especially in the second-half when Wabash mostly took away the inside game of freshman Jaime Lloreda, who finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Williams turned in a spirited performance off the bench, throwing down a thunderous put-back dunk, stealing balls and hitting 4-of-7 shots while leading the Rebels on a 10-0 run that put them ahead until the final moments.

"Dixie is a championship quality team," Spoonhour said. "When you get to this point the really good players make plays. To be honest, I didn't really like Tarv's three (the game-winner) all that much, but big players made big plays."

Dixie will play in the consolation game for third and fourth place at 5 p.m. today. Banks insists Dixie will give the game its all.

"You have to have something to play for," Banks said.


E-mail: lc@desnews.com