When the final buzzer sounded at the end of the Division I district semifinal last night between No. 3 ranked Libbey and upstart Southview, only the margin of victory came as a surprise.
The Cowboys - led by two-time All-Blade player of the year William Buford - topped the Cougars 76-70 at Savage Hall.
Buford produced another all-around stellar effort to lead the Cowboys (21-1) to their 12th win in a row. The 6-foot-5 junior tallied a game-high 30 points to go along with his game-high 12 rebounds.
But the Cougars (14-9) didn't go away quietly, despite being huge underdogs against a team that had won six of its previous seven games by at least 10 points.
"We know if we lose we go home, so we knew we had to come out and play hard," said Buford, who also dished out a game-high seven assists.
The Cowboys will face City League rival St. John's tomorrow night in the district final.
Brad Burton added 11 points and seven rebounds for the Cowboys, who shot 54 percent (29 of 54) from the field, including a 5-for-10 effort from 3-point range. Julius Wells and Brad Sandridge added nine points apiece while James Arnold came off the bench and scored all seven of his points in the fourth quarter to help the Cowboys fend off a young Cougars team.
Southview's starting backcourt of sophomores Tim Hausfeld and Shaun Joplin scored 20 points apiece, but combined for a 12-for-33 shooting effort. Josh Craig provided 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds. Leo Dehabey added eight points for Southview.
Libbey coach Leroy Bates commended his team for meeting Southview's challenge.
"We don't take any team lightly," Bates said. "We know at this point in the season this is a one-game series."
Nevertheless, the Cowboys won but lost Generio Kizer midway throught the third quarter when he was ejected from the game after a referee called him for elbowing Joplin in the head as the two ran down court. Joplin had pushed Kizer moments earlier and had been given a warning by the referee, but was not given a technical.
Kizer, a 6-4 senior, is a starting forward who will have to sit out the Cowboys' district final against St. John's to serve a one-game suspension.
The Cowboys buckled against the Cougars on a couple of occasions, but refused to give in at the end. They led by as many as 16 points early in the second quarter before the Cougars whittled away at the lead and eventually tied the game in the third quarter.
The Cowboys regained the lead and never allowed the Cougars to get any closer than one point the rest of the way.
"I reminded them that we once had a 16-point lead and you can't relax against a team that never quits," Bates said. "Marc [Jump] wouldn't let them."
Southview coach Marc Jump considered his team's performance a good effort. But the goal wasn't accomplished.
"I'm disappointed," Jump said. "We told the kids there were no moral victories tonight. Our goal was to win."
The Cougars pulled within a point of the Cowboys during the final quarter, but never came up with a basket to take a lead. The Cougars, who shot 41 percent from the field, struggled from long range as they sank only 4 of 17 attempts from 3-point territory. Hausfeld, the Cougars' 5-6 shooting guard, made only 5 of 18 shots, including a 2-for-10 effort from 3-point range.
Hausfeld, who was the Cougars' leading scorer during the regular season, scored 15 of his points after halftime to spark the comeback attempt.
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