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Dowling wins 66-65

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Tables turned, Dowling wins

Johnston's solo crown will have to wait


Register Staff Writer



Click rewind.


The date: Jan. 2.


The outcome: A one-point Johnston win over Dowling Catholic on a Brian McCrea free throw with four seconds left.


Fast forward to Friday night's CIML Central Conference rematch at Johnston. The outcome: Dowling wins, 66-65 - after sixth-ranked Johnston misses the front end of a one-and-one with . . . four seconds left.


"It was an identical game," the Maroons' Alex McConeghey said, "except the teams switched."


Friday's recipe for both teams: Physical. Intense. Draining.


"It sounds crazy to people, but it's a fun kind of game to be involved in, both as a player and as a coach," Johnston coach Jeff Simpson said. "Obviously it's not so much fun when you come out on this end of it."


The Maroons denied Johnston a chance to clinch the outright conference title and their fans had all the fun this time, storming the Dragons' court after the game was decided. They almost went home with a different feeling.


Dowling's Brian Lillis was called for a foul on the Dragons' Kris Grimes with four seconds left. Grimes - who scored 13 points - couldn't get the shot to fall.


The Maroons' David Ferezy rebounded, and missed his free-throw attempt, but Johnston couldn't get a shot off before the horn.


"I would have liked to have made mine at the end, just sort of seal the deal, but it turned out OK," said Ferezy, who scored eight points.


The 6-foot 6-inch senior helped in other ways, such as his seven blocked shots and rebounding.


"It's great to have the blocks, but stopping them from scoring's the biggest thing," Ferezy said. "The less they score, the better chance we have to win."


Johnston (12-4) played in its fifth game decided by three or fewer points, and for the fourth time in its last five games the outcome remained in doubt until the end.


Leading scorer Jimmy Binnie, who had 15 points, fouled out with 3:23 left, but the Dragons didn't wilt.


"It's a statement about how our team has grown," Simpson said. "We really did a couple of positive things there."


Johnston started well, taking the game's largest lead, 14-7, on Derek Retherford's three-point basket in the first quarter.


Dowling (12-5) responded with an 8-1 run, keyed by two baskets from Lillis, to tie the score, 15-15.


Then, the back and forth game began again.


The score was tied nine times from the second quarter on, and neither team led by more than five points in the second half.


The Dragons took a 63-62 lead on Luke Bengtson's three-pointer with 2:30 left, and went up, 65-62, less than a minute later on free throws by Retherford.


Lillis - who fouled out in the first meeting - scored the last two baskets of the game, including the winner with 52 seconds left.


Lillis didn't miss a shot in the first or fourth quarters - going 7-for-7 from the field in those spans. He finished with a team-high 16 points.

"It gets more and more intense every time we play," said McConeghey, who scored 14 points.


Johnston's next opportunity to clinch the conference crown is Friday at home against Indianola. The Dragons and Maroons are slated for the same substate and could meet again.


"Jimmy and I won't foul out," Lillis said. "I fouled out the first game, he fouled out the second game. That probably won't happen again.

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