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In one of the most difficult seasons for Scott basketball in about a half century, a win for the Bulldogs over rival Libbey would have helped ease the pain a bit for coach Joe Suboticki's team.
The Bulldogs appeared poised to do just that in the second game of a City League doubleheader Friday night at Savage Arena, but the favored Cowboys made the necessary plays down the stretch and escaped the upset with 53-47 victory before a sparse crowd.
Brandon Underwood led Libbey (9-5, 6-3 CL) with 17 points, Milan Mabry had 14, and Maurice Taylor scored seven of his eight in the final quarter to help the Cowboys hang on.
"I expected it to be tough," Libbey coach Keith McClure said. "It's a neighborhood rivalry.
"We separated ourselves when we went inside and got the post guys going. The difference [late] was that we took care of the ball a little better and we made our free throws."
The win enabled Libbey to claim fourth place all alone in the CL standings, as both St. Francis and Rogers lost last night to create a three-way tie with Start for fifth with two league contests remaining.
Only the top four teams qualify for the league playoffs. St. John's (9-0) has clinched a spot, and
Central Catholic (7-2) and Whitmer (7-2) are on the brink.
"We're taking it one game at a time, and what we want to do is put a situation together where we're playing consistent for a full game," McClure said. "Underwood was the guy tonight and that's the good thing about this team, anybody can step up on any given night."
Dashawn Lee topped the Bulldogs (3-13, 2-7) with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Austen Alabata added eight points.
"It's kind of like Michigan and Ohio State in football," Suboticki said. "You can lose the rest, but if you beat the rival everybody forgets. That's what this game is like, but we came up short.
"We're trying to build and get something going for the tournament. Maybe we'll get some confidence from this one, even though we lost."
Scott drew within 28-26 at halftime after Delaquan Norwood beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer, was fouled, and made the free throw. The Bulldogs led once midway in the third quarter, which closed in a tie at 35. Their last lead of the game came at 41-40 when Donovan McClain scored from the lane with 4:20 remaining.
But Maurice Birdsong put Libbey ahead for good at the
3:26 mark on a six-footer from the lane, and Mabry followed with an 18-footer for a three-point edge 17 seconds later.
Twice the Bulldogs would pull within one point in the late going, but a couple ill-advised 3-point attempts hindered Scott's chances.
"We played two really good games against Clay and Woodward, and then we played two really horrendous games after that," Suboticki said of his team, which entered the season with no returning letter winners. "Tonight was more like we're capable of playing.
"We played really well until the last two minutes, and then we took two horrendous shots from about 30 feet out, and had a turnover. At the end of a game you've got to make plays, and we didn't make them. We fouled them and they made their free throws, and that was pretty much the game."
Underwood iced things by hitting five of six free throws in the final 26 seconds.
Libbey was 21-of-44 from the field, 10-of-16 from the line, and outrebounded the Bulldogs 31-29. Scott was 17-of-48 from the field, 9-of-16 from the line, and committed 15 turnovers to Libbey's 13.
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