Dixie State 86, Indian Hills 73

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Is there much of a difference between third and fourth place in the nation? Dixie College sure thought so Saturday night as the Rebels took it to Indian Hills (Iowa), 86-73, in the final-four consolation game. Indian Hills won three of the previous four NJCAA championships.

Any thoughts that the Rebels (35-2), who had their sights set on a national championship all season, would come out flat were erased early as they applied their aggressive pressure from the opening tip. Dixie also clicked offensively and opened up a double-digit lead about ten minutes into the contest and seemingly coasted, heading into the half with a 39-25 lead.

"Our feelings were hurt from last night but we always want to win," Banks said.

Banks, named to the first team all-tournament team, was spectacular again, scoring 17 points and continuing his spectacular in-the-key drives and open-court play. He was also given the Bud Obee award for the tournament's top small player.

Utahns will see plenty of Banks next year since he is signed with UNLV, although he indicated that with the coaching uncertainty with the Rebels there is some possibility that could change.

There was talk all week that the top half of the 16-team bracket was much tougher than the lower half and Dixie seemed to enforce that as they walloped one of the lower half's final four teams. There was further proof in the championship game where Dixie's semifinal opponent Wabash Valley (Illinois) defeated Westark Community College (Arkansas) 89-83.

Banks was one of five Rebels in double figures. Freshman Jaime Lloreda, also named to the 12-player all tournament team, concluded a strong tournament with 16 points while guard Eddie Shelby and forward Joshua Clark each had 13. Guard Gary Colbert contributed 11 points and more of his smothering defense the anchored the defensively minded Rebels.

Indian Hills' coach Bob Boyd was disappointed after the loss, but seemingly more by being in the consolation game than in the outcome of it.

"There are a lot of teams that would be celebrating a 4th place finish," he said, making it clear that his team was not.

In contrast, Kidder seemed pleased with his team's performance.

"It feels great (to finish 3rd). Thirty-five games is a great amount of games to win. This was a special team. We wanted to play a game tonight to win it all, but we don't get everything we want."

Dixie's lead swelled to as many as 22 points before garbage time, which was much of the second half. Kidder went much deeper into his bench than usual, starting in the later stages of the second half. Brandon Burke and John Giannoni entered the game against the Indian Hills regulars when the game was decided, but with plenty of action left.

The Rebels won the championship back in '85 and made an appearance at the tournament two years ago, in Kidder's second season. They return several key players next year, including Lloreda, Dominique Towns and Alfred Williams who was spectacular in the tournament's final two games.

"We are a national power now," said Kidder. "We needed the players' help for recruiting and they have already done that. We were a great team and now the players reap the rewards individually by being recruited to big schools."

REBEL YELLS: Dixie's fans loaded up their charted bus and began the 18-hour drive back to St. George about 15 minutes after the Dixie win . . . Juco mascots at the tournament, seldom or never seen elsewhere, included the Apaches, Salukis and Ocelots . . . Ebi Ere scored 53 points for Baton County Friday night, the third highest single game total in the 51-year tournament history . . . The all-tournament team, announced at the conclusion of the championship included Dixie opponents, Kedrick Brown (Okaloosa), Darren Tarver (Wabash), and tournament MVP Antwain Barbrue (Wabash) . . . Lloredo finish first in rebounds with an 11.3 average while Dixie's Josh Davis (9.0 per game) finished second.

E-mail: lc@desnews.com