Overcoming a slow start, the St. Clair Bulldogs (14-12) did enough to overcome the Union Wildcats (6-18) Monday during the opening round of Class 4 District 9 play in Pacific, 66-53.
St. Clair advances to play top-seeded Borgia (17-8) Thursday at 6 p.m. in the semifinals.
“We are excited about the opportunity to continue our season,” St. Clair Head Coach Casey Korn said. “We know we are going to have to play our best game to stay with them.”
In the other first-round game from Monday night, third-seeded Sullivan (18-7) moved into the semifinals with a 34-25 win over Owensville (5-18).
Sullivan plays second-seeded Pacific (15-9) Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Union, which ended the regular season with a win, came out with a plan and took a 13-11 lead after eight minutes of action.
“We came out and played great in the first quarter,” Union Head Coach Chris Simmons said. “We really were in attack mode and were able to get some defensive pressure which led to some easy buckets on the offensive end. They really struggled against our zone early on but were able to figure it out.”
Korn said playing in that setting contributed to the rough opening quarter.
“I think early in the game nerves were a big factor and we turned the ball over seven times in the first quarter,” Korn said.
St. Clair tied the game with 6:21 left in the half and went on a 23-10 second quarter run to lead 34-23 at the half.
“Our first possession in the second quarter was a turnover but we didn’t turn it over the rest of the quarter,” Korn said. “It is a lot easier to a score points when you take shots.”
Simmons said the second quarter made the difference in the game.
“The second quarter is where we lost the game,” Simmons said. “We struggled to get stops because they seldom had play offense against our half-court defense. Their press really bothered us because it took us out of what we wanted to do. We began to force shots against it rather than executing and being patient for the shot that we wanted.”
The Bulldogs continued to add to the lead in the third quarter and led 49-35 after three quarters.
Union fought all the way to the end but couldn’t make significant cuts into the gap.
St. Clair was led by Neyko Dominguez, who scored 23 points while adding 10 assists for a double-double. He also had three rebounds and three steals.
“Neyko played really well with a double-double,” Korn said. “He hit open shots, but more importantly, he took high-quality shots and which lead to a high percentage of makes. He made the right play last night.”
Simmons also lauded Dominguez.
“Neyko played a great game,” Simmons said. “He hit some tough shots and completely controlled the flow of the game.”
Adam Brott scored 10 points with five rebounds.
Brandon York netted nine points with four rebounds, two steals, one assist and a blocked shot.
Evan Murphy posted eight points with three steals, two assists and two rebounds.
Austin Gotway came off the bench to score five points with one assist.
“Austin helped handle for the ball and knocked down a huge three,” Korn said.
Ben Feddersen ended with four points, four rebounds and two steals.
Will Rolley played a key role off the bench with four points, six rebounds, one assist and one steal.
“Will played a great game last night,” Korn said. “He gave us some great minutes offf the bench. He boarded well and didn’t panic in the post.”
Reno Jones scored three points.
Spencer Crumbaugh pulled down a rebound.
Evan Powell added two steals.
Brandon Ford led the Wildcats with 15 points, six rebounds, four assists, four blocked shots and one steal.
Nick Ziegler contributed nine points, two assists and two rebounds.
Brian Borgmann scored eight points with three blocked shots, three rebounds and an assist.
Ashton Dehn ended with eight points and two rebounds.
TJ Vitt had eight points, two assists, two rebounds and one steal.
Blake Hulsey scored five points while adding one steal.
Union graduates two seniors from this team, Ford and Dehn.
“It is a tough way to go out for our seniors, but they played hard and Ashton and Brandon have nothing to hang their heads about tonight,” Simmons said.
“As for the season, it was a tough one,” Simmons said. “Anytime you only win six games, it is tough to be happy about the results. I never felt like our kids threw in the towel and quit. They fought until it was all done. We are a young team, and while it will be tough to replace Ashton and Brandon who did so much for us, we have a lot coming back that we need to build on.”
The Sullivan Eagles won a low-scoring game over the sixth-seeded Owensville Dutchmen, 34-25.
The teams were tied 6-6 after one quarter and Sullivan held a 14-11 lead at the half. The Eagles led 24-20 after three quarters.
Sullivan’s Justin Biermann led all scorers with 18 points. Adam Weiland chipped in with 10.
Drew Garner and Cole Farris scored six points apiece for the Dutchmen.