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Bears bounce Bronson from district tournament

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By Sean Arnold

A two-minute span in the second quarter proved too costly for Bronson to overcome.

The No. 3-seeded Eagles, fresh off a convincing district quarterfinal win against Chiefland (69-42), fell victim to early turnovers and a second-quarter scoring splurge by Dixie County in last Friday’s District 1A-7 semifinal round, as the Bears advanced on a 71-52 win in Bell.

The second-seeded Bears, which routed Cedar Key in their quarterfinal tilt, went on to upset top-seeded and fourth-ranked Bell Saturday with a 63-59 overtime victory.

Dixie County played host to District 1A-8 runner-up Crescent City in the regional semifinals Tuesday.

It was a defensive slog for the first quarter of action between the BMHS and DCHS. A pair of early buckets by junior Tra Francis gave his Eagles a 4-0 lead for more than three minutes, before the Bears finally got on the board with a James Smith put-back with 3:35 remaining in the opening quarter.

A Francis free throw early in the second quarter knotted the teams at 8-8, before the Bears exploded for 26 points in the frame. Smith and senior Clifford Jackson ignited the rally with 3s, while senior Jamal Chapman went 4 for 4 from the foul line in contributing eight points in the quarter.

Jackson tallied a team-high 19 points in the game behind a quartet of 3-pointers.

“We pretty much had to warm up,” Dixie County head coach William Graham said. “It was a flat day for us all day, you could sense it. We found some energy in the second quarter.”

The 15-1 run early in the quarter put Dixie County on top 23-9. Bronson played mostly even with the Bears for the remainder, but could never cut into the margin.

The Cross City squad led 34-19 at the half, and enjoyed a 51-33 advantage by the end of the third.

Francis, who presented a size advantage inside for the Bronson, poured on 15 of his game-high 22 points in the second half. The junior center repeatedly got to the line in the second half, finishing 8 for 12.

The Eagles were excellent at free throws, going 18 for 25.

But Bronson was disappointed it couldn’t take more advantage of the matchup inside, especially early, and Dixie County won the battle of offensive rebounds. Making matters tougher, Eagles senior forward Julius Smith found himself in foul trouble.

“We didn’t work hard enough inside,” BMHS coach Kenny Thomas said. “We didn’t show enough patience there, because our game is inside. We should have done that more in the first half.”

While waiting for its shot to heat up, Dixie County utilized its press defense and offensive ball movement to put pressure on Bronson.

“(Dixie County’s) man-to-man press kind of pulled it off,” Thomas said. “We didn’t really move enough to get open, and then we turned the ball over like two or three times in a row there. Plus, we were missing chip shots.”

Despite the struggles, Bronson continued to battle, posting 19 points in the fourth quarter.

“They played hard, I was proud of them for that,” Thomas said. “They could have folded up, but they fought to the end.”

BMHS junior Glen Cooper went 4 for 5 on foul shots to finish with 10 points. Julius Smith was 5 for 6 from the line in finishing with nine points. Bronson senior Andrew Jenkins connected on a pair of second-half 3s for seven points in the game.

Junior Aaron Dawson tacked on 14 points for Dixie County, while James Smith and Chapman added 13 and 10 apiece, respectively.