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Cougars are ones to knock off No. 1

February 09, 2008|By JOHN O'BRIEN

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W. Va. -- The Jefferson Cougars are running out of No. 1 teams to beat.

Dewey McDonald hit a short jumper for the lead with seven seconds left, and Jordan Reed's desperation 3-pointer bounced off the front of the rim as the Cougars handed Hedgesville -- the top-ranked team in West Virginia -- its first loss of the season Friday night, 36-35.

Jefferson (12-5) also was the first team to beat Millbrook, the No. 1 team in Virginia's Group AA.

"We're looking for the No. 1 teams in Pennsylvania and Maryland now," Jefferson coach Bob Starkey joked.

He had reason to be in a good mood. No. 5 Jefferson trailed by as many as 11, made only 8 of 34 shots through the third quarter and did not look like it would avenge an earlier loss to the Eagles (16-1). McDonald, coming off a 5-for-20 shooting performance in a win against Musselman, made only 2 of 8 shots and 1 of 6 free throws entering the fourth.

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Down 35-34, McDonald took the ball from right to left into the lane, jump-stopped and hit a 7-footer over Marquis Woods.

"I really admire him," Starkey said. "He was having a tough night. He couldn't get a foul shot or a 3-pointer or any type of hoop to go in for him, but he made it at the end."

With standout center Vance Hosby struggling to get going offensively -- he had only one point all game -- McDonald had six of Jefferson's 12 points in the final period.

"We did the best we could denying him the ball," Hedgesville coach Kelly Church said. "He got the ball, and he's a heck of an athlete.

"He made a contested shot to win the game. That's what makes him a good player."

It took several seconds before the Eagles could get a timeout, and they inbounded under their own basket with 3.8 left.

J.R. Mayles took the pass, then found Reed as he headed upcourt. A running 35-footer was inches away from going in.

"Certainly, I'd rather our first loss come now if you can guarantee me we'll win the rest of our games," Church said. "Losing never feels good."

Twenty turnovers didn't help the Eagles' cause, considering Jefferson committed only nine.

Hedgesville went ahead 24-13 when Duane Fleetwood scored in transition two minutes into the second half, but the Cougars slowly worked the margin to 28-24 by the end of the quarter. It would have been even closer had McDonald not missed 5 of 6 free throws.

But he hit a pair with 7:04 remaining to slice the lead to 28-26, and Tyler Hester put back a Justin Fagan miss to tie the game. Fagan (10 points) made a driving layup to give Jefferson its first lead.

Woods nailed a pair of free throws, Hester scored another layup and Fleetwood used his quickness to score inside to tie it at 32 with 2:01 left.

Jefferson spread the court, and McDonald got to the basket for an easy 2 with 1:20 left, setting the stage for what looked like a game-winning 3-pointer from Fleetwood (13 points). When teammate Nathan Beard fell, Jefferson could not close out on Fleetwood and the lefty hit a long 3 with 23 seconds left.

"All our kids have the green light to shoot whenever they have an open shot they think they can make," Church said. "I'm certainly pleased it went in."

But it didn't matter, thanks to McDonald's heroics. He finished with 11.

"He was struggling," Starkey said. "He got it together at the end."

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