No. 1 Southwestern drops Douglass with 2nd-half run Sabers shake slow start, cruise to 72-57 victory behind backcourt duo

March 04, 1997|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Transportation problems caused top-ranked Southwestern to arrive 45 minutes late for yesterday's Class 4A North region playoff at Douglass.

The Sabers needed a little more time to get rolling once the game started, coming out sluggish and scoring only five points in a first quarter controlled by Douglass.

Backcourt mates Cornelius McMurray and D'Artegnon Smith eventually took over, however.

McMurray registered a triple double and Smith nearly did, as Southwestern advanced with a 72-57 victory over No. 17 Douglass.

Southwestern (23-0) will play host to Mervo tomorrow in the region semifinals.

McMurray and Smith sparked the Sabers at both ends of the court. They were the keys to Southwestern's trapping defense that gave Douglass fits, especially in the second half.

Southwestern used its quickness to trap at several spots, forcing bad passes, poor shots and numerous turnovers. The Sabers then converted the errors into easy points.

The Ducks (14-7) turned the ball over 20 times -- including six in the first quarter they controlled.

"We weren't intense on defense in the first half," said Smith. "In the second half, we came out more intense."

Said Southwestern coach Terry Leverett: "You have to win with defense. They stepped it up in the third quarter and took control."

Smith and McMurray keyed that second-half spurt. Smith finished with a team-high 20 points, and also led with 13 assists and eight steals. McMurray added 18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

Douglass, behind the strong shooting of Chucky Harris (32 points), took a 13-5 lead after one. The Ducks controlled the tempo, and the Sabers hit only two of 13 shots from the field.

But Southwestern slowly heated up. The Sabers rallied for a 24-23 halftime lead, then built it to 12, 39-27, lead midway through the third quarter.

Douglass never again drew closer than six as the Sabers' smothering defense made finding decent shots a not-so-fun adventure. The Ducks went long stretches without baskets as the Sabers rolled.

"Defense is what we specialize in," said McMurray. "Offense comes off of defense."

Southwestern forced turnovers on four straight possessions midway through the third and converted those turnovers into points three times.

Throw in strong play from Jerome Banks (14 points), Robert Gray (10) and Earl Carr (six), and it's easy to understand how Southwestern took command in the second half.

"If you turn it over vs. Southwestern, you lose," said Douglass coach Rodney Coffield.

"They turned it up a little bit in the second half, and we turned it over."

Pub Date: 3/04/97

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